Rising Global New Class Demands a New World
A new class of workers is growing within the global economy. Its class position is defined by the development of qualitatively new means of production, that are abolishing its economic connection to capitalist society. The new means of production are creating wealth with little or no living labor, and thus are eliminating the function of labor in production. With no economic role in production, this new class is compelled to fight politically for its right to survive, and exists in antagonism to the capitalist ruling class. The political program of the new class is not merely the overthrow of capitalism, but the abolition of the private ownership of the means of production. Global unity is the condition for its national emancipation.
Currently demonstrated technologies (e.g. driverless vehicles, artificial intelligence, industrial robots) have the technical capacity to replace half the global workforce, according to a recent estimate by the McKinsey Global Institute in its 2017 report “Harnessing Automation for a Future that Works.” In their 2017 study of U.S. labor markets “Robots and Jobs,” economists Daron Acemoglu and Pascual Restrepo identify a link between the deployment of industrial robots and industrial job losses over the past 26 years. As this technology continues to develop, the role of living labor in production is progressively replaced.
The antagonism between the new class and the capitalist ruling class is simultaneously global and historic. It is the result of an historic contradiction that began over 6,000 years ago within the initial stage of class society, and has progressed to its current stage within the global system of capitalist production and distribution. Although the antagonism is expressed differently in different parts of the world, it is the same antagonism nonetheless. It is expressed economically as joblessness and destitution, and in some areas of the world it is expressed as political and military conflict.
New Class and Economic Polarization
The capitalist countries in Europe and North America, where industrialization began in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, are now being hollowed out by the entry of qualitatively new technology into production. Technological change is creating economic polarization and therefore also polarizing society. The empirical record suggests that this process is highly variable across nation-states, and is creating especially intense pressure within three countries: Greece, the United States, and South Africa. Each of these countries experienced quantitative decreases in the ratio of employment to working age population over the period 2000 to 2016 (a lesser ratio in 2016 compared to 2000, meaning fewer workers per working age residents).
Greece’s debt crisis exploded during the 2007/08 recession, its national employment receded, rendering its 2016 employment to population ratio less than it was prior to 2007. The declining U.S. ratio is caused by the destruction of jobs due to the technology revolution, and its war-minded State committed to military spending rather than civilian employment. The South African ratio reflects weak to no growth in employment in the face of significant increases in population. The declining ratios in these three countries are a harbinger song for the rest of the world economy.
Another indicator of economic polarization due to the technological revolution is the number of workers stating that they need to work full time, but are working part-time. Part-time work is officially defined as 34 hours/week or less, and this category of the workforce is sometimes labeled “involuntary part-time workers.” For all 35 OECD countries (the world’s largest economies except India and China) over the period 2000 to 2016, the number of involuntary part-time workers doubled from 9.3 million to 18.6 million. This growth rate is significant, and reflects the technological elimination of higher paying jobs relative to lower paying jobs. This is a process particularly evident in the U.S. where one-third of jobs pay sub-poverty level wages, even for many older workers who possess a life-time of work experience.
A third indicator of economic polarization related to the technological revolution is the phenomena of destitution and homelessness. Official statistics do not accurately reflect the scope and breadth of homelessness. There is no public authority committed to systematic data collection, and definitions vary between the so-called “literal homeless” sleeping in shelters or on the street, versus the “precariously housed” homeless doubled-up in shared living quarters. The important fact is that destitution is now a permanent feature of life under capitalism, and reflects two principles: 1) The initial stages of the technological revolution placed the least advantaged workers into highly vulnerable social circumstances that led to homelessness and destitution, and 2) The ability of the State to assist the homeless is constrained by the principle that capital will not pay for those that it can’t exploit. Recent evidence on the prevalence of homelessness in the U.S., U.K, Germany, Italy, and Belgium was reported in 2007 by Paul Toro and co-authors in “Homelessness in Europe and the United States.” They show that homelessness is advancing more rapidly in the U.S. and the U.K. than in the other three countries, as indicated by higher rates of homelessness in these two countries.
According to the World Bank, unemployment in 2017 in North Africa was generally in double digits and highest in Libya at 18 percent; official unemployment in Sub-Saharan Africa is highly variable across counties and was 22 percent in Namibia; in Latin America, unemployment was highest in Brazil at 13 percent. Youth unemployment is more severe, often twice the rate of adult unemployment; 44 percent in Libya, 44 percent in Namibia, and 30 percent in Brazil.
Another section of the new class is semi-employed in so-called “informal” jobs that are “highly precarious and vulnerable,” according to World Bank’s 2017 report “The Informal Economy and the World Bank.” The International Labour Organization (2017) estimates that this type of employment constitutes half to three-quarters of non-agricultural employment in North Africa, Latin America, Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa.
In many areas of the world the new class is being forced to flee conflict and hard times, and to migrate across international borders for employment and physical safety. These efforts are most often met with discrimination and second-class citizenship in the receiving country. Such is the case for many of the 12 million undocumented U.S. residents born in Mexico, who face employment discrimination in the form of lower wages, no healthcare insurance, or no retirement benefits. Undocumented workers face the additional threat of deportation.
New Class Migration
There are an estimated 244 million international migrants in the world today, enough so that if these comprised a separate country, they would be the 5th largest in the world. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, 66 million of these migrants are forcibly displaced, and include refugees and displaced persons from conflicts in Colombia, Syria, South Sudan, and Afghanistan. The areas of the world hosting international migrants is, in order of magnitude, Europe, Asia, North America, and Africa.
New class migrants are leaving their place of origin in hope of attaining a better life in a new country. In fact, this better life is right before our eyes, as soon as we organize society to make it happen. Qualitatively new production methods make material abundance for everyone possible, yet the constraints of capitalist society are intensifying competition for jobs, while failing to distribute the material abundance of production. Higher paid jobs as well as lower paid jobs are being eliminated by technology. There is no way out for the new class, so long as the ruling capitalist class holds power.
New class migrants can play a special role in connecting the new class in their host country to the new class in their country of origin, and in helping to educate the class about international opportunities for solidarity and organization.
Political and Military Conflict Driven by Capitalist Antagonism
It is becoming increasingly evident that the planet is threatened by world war, including the possibility that war can go nuclear. The war danger reflects antagonism between qualitatively new technology versus capitalist relations of production, and the fact that the new technology is destroying capitalist markets, and along with this, the entire capitalist system. The mad scramble for markets and profits portends world economic collapse and world war, and presently there are military conflicts in Asia, Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East.
In this context international unity of the new class becomes the foundation for peace and prosperity for all. If united internationally, the new class has the capacity to forever end war by abolishing private property and by establishing property relations that realize the objective possibility of economic abundance for all.
Program of the New Class Depends Upon International Unity
The program of the new class is to abolish private property and to reorganize society based on distribution according to need. Nationalization can be a step along the way toward achieving this program, to the extent it favors the majority and begins to nationalize the means of producing food, housing, healthcare, education, water, and all of the other necessaries of life. Nationalization is thus a step toward centralizing new class political influence in the fight for political power.
The struggle over nationalization was ignited in the U.S. by the capitalists’ bailout during and after the 2007/08 recession. Banks were bailed out, not the homeowners who lost their homes to foreclosure. Corporations were bailed out, not the workers who lost their jobs. The new class needs nationalization in its interests, the interests of the majority rather than those of the corporate shareholders.
Unity of the new class is a strategic necessity, and can be summed up as “all for one and one for all.” The new class is not an industrial working class that is going back to work. Its capacity to unite internationally is the foundation for its economic and social security, the end of warfare, and a bridge to real human freedom. By giving voice to its program broadly and directly, we build a future for our class and for all of humanity.
March/April 2018 Vol28.Ed2
This article originated in Rally, Comrades
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The age-old vision of a world without scarcity, without exploitation, class domination, organized violence, and stultifying labor has been the dream of millenia. The new completely socialized labor-eliminating means of production ... sets the basis for its realization. Now human history can begin, the light of the individual shining in the full brightness of liberated life, that can only be realized within true equality and cooperation: communism, a cooperative society.'Without Vision, the People Perish'
Rally, Comrades ! May/June 2011