Advances in Economy Call for Revolutionary Change
Labor-replacing automated technology is rapidly advancing, transforming and restructuring the jobs-based economy. These rapid advances in the economy are accelerating the growth of a new class of workers – those millions who are being driven to the fringes of the economy, or into complete destitution, out of the economy altogether. This new class of workers represents a new revolutionary social force.
Today, the United States has more than 8 million less manufacturing jobs than in 1980, decreasing from nearly 20 million to less than 12 million. The economy lost forty percent of its industrial manufacturing jobs base over the past 40 years at an accelerating rate each year. According to the International Federation of Robotics, robot density in U.S. manufacturing in 2017 reached 200 robots per 10,000 employees, representing a rate of six percent growth in each of the two previous years. This growth rate is projected to accelerate rapidly. Today, we are in the early stages of robots equipped with artificial intelligence being introduced into industrial production. In the near future these robots are expected to take over most industrial manufacturing processes.
The U.S. economy (in fact the world economy) is a jobs-based economy. It is a capitalist economy based on private property. This means that if you are a worker you need a job that pays you enough to buy what you need in order to live. Over the past four decades, millions of economically secure industrial workers in the U.S. lost their jobs to labor-replacing automation. They were forced into the ranks of low-wage workers that number in the tens of millions. Others joined the ranks of the homeless. Millions more will continue to be replaced and suffer the same fate unless the jobs-based economy is replaced by a needs-based economy. And this reality is not only facing industrial workers. It is facing tens of millions of workers in every sector of the economy.
The Federal Reserve’s 2018 report on the economic well-being of U.S. households released in May 2019, found that 40 percent of American adults cannot cover a $400 emergency with cash, savings or a credit card charge they could quickly pay off. And in the February 2019 New York Times article entitled, “Tech is Splitting the U.S. Work Force in Two,” we see the same conclusions: “Automation is splitting the American labor force into two worlds. There is a small island of highly educated professionals making good wages at corporations like Intel or Boeing, which reap hundreds of thousands of dollars in profit per employee. That island sits in the middle of a sea of less educated workers who are stuck at businesses like hotels, restaurants and nursing homes that generate much smaller profits per employee and stay viable primarily by keeping wages low. Even economists are reassessing their belief that technological progress lifts all boats and are beginning to worry about the new configuration of work.”
A 2017 report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that the last two generations of workers (ages 16-38) make up 60 percent of all U.S. minimum wage workers. Add those who are unemployed or under-employed, working part-time, temporary, contingent, and gig jobs,. and we find these younger workers make up a rapidly growing section of the new class. Many have never entered the jobs economy at all. Millions have never experienced an economically secure job.
More than half of all jobs in the U.S. today are in manufacturing, retail and sales, clerical and administrative, food service and food preparation, truck driving and transportation. Online shopping is already wiping out retail stores across the country. Almost 10 percent of the retail shops in the U.S. malls are vacant, as e-commerce takes its toll. Retailers have closed more than 5,000 shops in just the last six months. Clerical and administrative workers are already being replaced with computer program algorithms.
Fully automated supermarkets and fast food stores are being designed. Amazon Go, with no checkout lines or cashiers are already fully operational. Kroger Supermarket and Microsoft have partnered to do the same. Walmart is using robovans that go from warehouse to warehouse. They are monitored remotely, one person to ten robotic trucks. The U.S. Postal Service is already testing long-distance, driverless trucks and Uber and Lyft are already testing driverless cars. Dockworkers at the Port of Los Angeles who transfer containers from ships to trucks are scheduled to be replaced by 45-foot tall robotic carriers. And all of this is minuscule, compared to what is just around the corner, when 5G network technology and artificial intelligence (AI) get added to the labor-replacing equation.
A quick look at the near future shows how rapidly the economy is being transformed. In AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order, Kai-Fu Lee, gives a simple explanation of artificial intelligence. He writes: “As deep learning washes over the global economy, it will indeed wipe out billions of jobs: accountants, assembly line workers, warehouse operators, stock analysts, quality control inspectors, truckers, paralegals and even radiologists, just to name a few…Within fifteen years, artificial intelligence will be able to replace around 40 to 50 percent of jobs in the United States….Rising in tandem with unemployment will be astronomical wealth in the hands of the new AI tycoons.”
This short scenario is the reality we face in the very near future. It vividly shows how the rapidly advancing labor-replacing, automated technology is incompatible with an economy based on jobs and private property. Simply put, production without labor requires distribution of the social product without money. All of the current struggles for basic necessities of life, including housing, health care, education, and a clean environment are actually struggles for a human needs based, communist economy – the only economy that is compatible with the new automated technology and the abundance it creates.
The new class is the new social force being created by the rapidly advancing automated technology. Its needs, and its practical demands, are for the basic necessities of life to be distributed according to need and without money. Once the new class becomes conscious of this reality, it can play its historic role of leading society to a new world, a new cooperative society based on distribution according to need. Educating and uniting the new class and society around this vision is the overriding task of revolutionaries today. The future of humanity depends on it. RC
November.December 2019 Vol29.Ed6
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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