|Labor Power Report No. 5|
Labor Power Report, Issue 6, June 2011
Published by Workers International Industrial Union
Don't know about labor power. Read the Labor Power Report, Introductory, January 2011
Before beginning, this is a reminder from past Labor Power Issues, to all fellow workers--employed, underemployed, working poor (the fastest growing economic sector) and students on the threshold of entering the labor market. Under our existing economic system: Your labor power always costs too much no matter how low the pay for it gets.
Untouched by Human Hands
Competition Compels the US masters of Industry to strive towards churning out products untouched by human hands.
The tendency of our social system, commonly called, "free enterprise system," is to render labor power superfluous for the production of products. In essence, it means that the cost of labor power would eventually reach zero. Of course that is an impossibility since the products produced, but owned by a tiny minority, must be sold in the stores. As the average pay of workers is steadily reduced in relation to the cost of the merchandise in stores, the need for credit steadily increases. As has been obviously demonstrated, the cost of labor power has not reached zero, yet economic collapse is threatening due to the enormous necessity for credit having reached its breaking point. The collapse of the market will happen before zero labor power in production.
What to do about it. As was done before, drag out the antediluvian approach. Let those who are impoverished fester with "want in the midst of plenty" until their patience and endurance wears out, then institute government "make work" programs and when that runs its course, instigate a good old fashioned war. After that, retrofit war production with domestic production, step up credit consumerism, and sit back and watch the stock market ticker tape spit out surges of profit. The span between the cycles has been getting shorter each time until now there is no span, not even a cycle, it is virtuously continuous, each segment of former cycles are now merged into the other—economic stagnation, government pump priming and war all lumped together in one package. Despite that the stock market report is still spitting out surges of profit. No matter what, economy up; economy down; economy holding study—the system always works, it is said.
Another approach ubiquitously being hawked by congressional politicians (from both sides of the isle) is "job creation." All the while that is being bolstered by the media, and last but not least, indoctrination of students in schools. Common sense should deduct that attempting to create jobs in a society that aggressively promotes job elimination is a preposterous display of Luddite mentality. The Luddites, in 19th Century England, attempted to destroy industrial productive machinery fearing it would eliminate their jobs. Instead of organizing production, that has the potential to produce an abundance to benefit everyone, they yearned to return to a period of productive potential incapable of doing that. A fallacy if there ever was one.
Now, with a productive capacity to produce a super abundance for everyone, there is a tightfisted hold of ownership on it. A huge portion of its products are released to the people only through the enormous use of credit. Instead of organizing that productive capacity for the benefit of everyone, the stubbornly held idea of creating jobs (8 hours a day, 40 hours a week) persists. That would only be possible by returning the nation's productive capacity back to the time when it virtually took all workers in the nation, working on a job 8 hours per day, 40 hours per week, to produce enough for all the people's needs.
In the present case, the clamor to create millions of jobs does not destroy modern productive machines but, in a sense, it does display a similar Luddite fallacy—a return to the past. Put more labor time hours into production when it is not needed.
One of the rallying cries of workers early in the 20th Century was, "Don't kick workers out of a job, kick hours out of the work day." It got down to 40 hours from 80 or more, but has remained frozen there for many decades, no matter how much the productivity of workers has increased. Naturally the need for the number of workers at a 40 hour work week is reduced in inverse ratio to the increase in productivity. Can we expect anything different?
While offering himself as the future president, William Jefferson Clinton's self supposed earthshaking exclamation was, "Its the economy, stupid." Did he really mean that in its fullest context? Considering the performance of the government during his two terms as president, and the presidents that have followed, it appears that no administration, including his, has responded to that call. The economic understanding of the nation remains as "stupid" as ever before.
Second Industrial Revolution Post World War II
Stage l: Export productive technology, that reduces the need for labor power in production, and import the products at a reduced price.
Automation was touted as a creator of jobs, not the elimination of them. Really! Workers bit on that hook, line and sinker. While workers were lulled to sleep, companies made a rush to institute automation, tactfully that is. Not taking the chance of shocking American workers out of their slumber. They began setting up the first stage in Japan.
One of the first signs of that was in 1960 with packs of cookies being sold in a US military PX in South Korea. On the package was an inscription that read: "Untouched by human hands."
After the enormous devastation of the economy in Japan, the reconstruction of its economy opened up a lucrative market for advanced productive machines. With that, and reconstruction in war torn Europe, US exports were at an all time high, especially the new generation of technological productive tools. That was a prelude to the future of intensified reduction of the requirement for labor time for production—the tendency to render labor power superfluous. Industry would never look back again.
The wide open implementation of modern industry in Japan, assisted by US aid, presented a juicy investment potential to the modern US "carpetbagger." To ward off that impending stampede, one of the first laws enacted by Japan, after the US occupation ended in 1952, provided that all Japanese business must have a controlling interest by its citizens.
While nursing along the operation of US dilapidated and antiquated domestic steel mills, modern new technological mills were exported to Japan. Low and behold Japanese steel arrives at the US docks with a price tag much less than the going price for domestically produced steel. That was a shrewd tactic circumventing the danger of arousing a Luddite reaction from the slumbering American steel workers if a sudden attempt was made to install those modern steel mills at home. Shrewd indeed, the union contract ends up not being worth the paper that it is written on. The steelworker finds himself helplessly walking away from the evacuated steel mill, muttering to himself in despair, while cheaper steel sets the table for US demand. The old method was fine during the war which provided an unlimited market without any competition. And prior to the war, Japan provided a hungry consumer needing an enormous amount of steel to construct its war machine. Now competition returns with a vengence.
The American auto industry, a world leader for many decades, is suddenly shaken by fierce competition from Japan. All of the big three auto makers have a stake in the Japanese auto companies, assisted in automating them and conveniently imported their automobiles. In this case, a new twist is added. In the sourthern US states, we have a ready and willing unemployed and underemployed workforce with a "any job is better than none" mindset and essentially with a non-union vent. A maneuver selecting the perfect place to locate a Japanese auto factory. If, instead, the US automaker were to relocate in the south and attempt the same maneuver, it would immediately be repelled by the already established auto workers union having contracts with those companies. That maneuver leaves the union up north high and dry as a mere spectator to the event, contract be damned. Since then, robotics has entered the scene, displacing jobs both in the north and south.
A sample of what the future portends, was shown on TV some years ago. It was a video of a Japanese production facility. It operated in complete darkness without any human present, humming along, spitting out product hour after hour.
A huge paper mill in Canada, that supplies newsprint paper to the US, is completely automated except for one operation. When the roll has reached its required size, a lone worker, with a utility knife, makes a cut separating what is to be the end of the roll from the start of the next roll. That was reported several years ago. It would be no surprise not to see a utility knife being used now, the last of the Mohegans having disappeared.
Stage 2: Now that foreign competition has set the new standard of production, US companies have a pretext for reducing the need for labor power at home to meet that competition.
It has been over 60 years since workers were hawked with the claim that automation creates more jobs while packs of cookies appeared on the store selves that were produced "untouched by human hands." Evidently the captains of industry haven't caught on to that farce yet. Or did they actually know that was a lie all along. From the New York Times, June 9 2011, titled "Companies Spend on Equipment, Not Workers":
“I want to have as few people touching our products as possible,” said Dan Mishek, managing director of Vista Technologies in Vadnais Heights, Minn. “Everything should be as automated as it can be. We just can’t afford to compete with countries like China on labor costs, especially when workers are getting even more expensive.”
Recall the lead into this article, "Your labor power always costs too much no matter how low the pay for it gets."
The New York Times article continues:
"Companies that are looking for a good deal aren’t seeing one in new workers.
"Workers are getting more expensive while equipment is getting cheaper, and the combination is encouraging companies to spend on machines rather than people."
Is that part of what is meant by "Profits before People"? Notice the blatant oxymoron, the pay for labor power goes down yet it is getting "more expensive." The inference is that the economic crsis is the fault of the workers, not the profit gouging owners.
Not convinced yet? Here is another: ABC News, July 30, 2010, titled "Big Spenders: Company Profits Not Translating Into More Workers"
"There's a real mystery going on here because corporate profits have been pretty strong," said Jon Hilsenrath, the chief economics correspondent for the Wall Street Journal. "The problem is they're investing in equipment, not people."
Again, is that part of what is meant by "Profits before People"?
The chief economic correspondent for the Wall Street Journal might do his job well for the requirement of his superiors, but considering his remark, "There's a real mystery going on here....," could he successfully run a business for profit or would he gaze into a crystal ball for guidance. From all indications, past and present, the tried and proven method to beat the competition is to cut the cost of labor power, a change that has been accelerating exponentially for the past 60 years. That is an absolute, not a mystery.
Stage 3: US outsourcing of jobs.
The most recent go to country for US intensified outsourcing is China.
It is no mystery that the leading US high tech industries outsource their production to China, stuff humongous container ships with those products, then have them unloaded at docks in California. There is no definitive official or media report on the volume of those imports which are vaguely generalized as exports from China. They are not owned by the "Communist party-led state of China" (as identified by the US State Department) nor privately by any Chinese citizen. They are of US ownership.
US corporations are conducting a two pronged assault on US labor power from the vantage point of their China operations.
l) Undaunted by domestic labor resistance, full blown implementation of labor power reduction through intensified productive technology.
2) What labor power is still required under the intensified productivity is bought at a draconian low rate of pay.
The beauty of the operation is the almost total absence of any workers' organization. What does exist is an impostor labor union, posited as the largest labor union in the world, but sadly controlled by the "Communist party-led state of China," A cozy syndicate association between the the US and China, in their assault on labor power.
Here is a chronological order of events that led up to the syndicate.
In the beginning: The prolonged cold war, a warding off of the US "domino theory, primarily emanating from the Soviet Union but China being prominently in line. A time when a saying was circulating in the US: "Before going to sleep, check under your bed for a commie that might be lurking there."
1971 About face: US-China ping pong diplomacy. It promoted the discovery to the American people that those creatures live and breath just like we do, and best of all they possess labor power like we do. Stick a pin on that last one, it will become prominent in the chronology later.
1972 "Nixon goes to China": With the above out of the way—everyone is settled in with the understanding that people are people here and there—time now for a state meeting of the minds between our US president Nixon and Chairman Mao Zedong. A show of friendship to the American people that not only can the Chinese people civilly engage in sports with us; not only do they possess labor power like us, but also their fearless leader is civilized enough to shake hands with our President, and with a beaming smile at that. Communism in China has become respectable and deserving of a US "most favorable trading nation" granted it.
From that point to the present, is self explanatory. Check the location of manufacture of major US corporation name brand products for sale in the big box stores: Walmart, Target, Home Depot, Menards, Lowes, Best Buy, etc. You will overwhelmingly see "Made in China," while standing there without a dollar in your pocket, a maxed out credit card and having just mailed out another thousand job search resumes. Your mind is reeling from hearing the oft mentioned asinine claims that automation creates more jobs. Heaped on to that, another oft mention asinine claim that the wealthy deserve their riches, along with low taxes, because they, get that, they create the jobs for you and all your fellow working men and women. (Tongue in cheek) Have sympathy for the masters of industry because they spend big bucks for their supporting legislators to keep their low taxes in perpetuality so they can continue providing your jobs year after year. Jobs, without interruption, which allow you to apply you labor power that rewards you with an enjoyable life. Believe it or not!
1) Beginning: You and all of your fellow workers—employed, underemployed, working poor (the fastest growing economic sector) and students on the threshold of entering the labor market. Under our existing economic system: Your labor power always costs too much, no matter how low the pay for it gets.
2) 19th Century: Workers' failure to organize and make full use of increased productive capacity, provided for by the industrial revolution, to benefit all in society. Instead, the Luddites attempted to smash the machines. The concept of labor industrial unionism had yet to be developed.
3) 20th Century: Another workers' failure to organize and make full use of increased productive capacity. This time a massive increase in productivity made possible by the technological addition to the industrial revolution. Instead, the labor unions degenerated into a culture of "capital and labor are brothers." In collaboration, fake union leaders and "capital" meaning the capitalist, beat down an authentic workers' union, Workers International Industrial Union (WIIU). A union organization dedicated to conducting production for the benefit of everyone in society. In place of that was production with the objective of amassing profits for the owners of industry, with the concurrance of the fake labor leaders in control of the business as usual "mock duck" labor unions. The proof is in the pudding, or the cat is out of the bag. More and more, those "mock duck" labor unions are becoming irrelevant to the working class.
What is next?
4) 21st Century: Will this century mark another failure to organize the stupendous productive capacity to serve the needs of all in our society. Such an organization was attempted early in the 20th Century. First by the Socialist Trade and Labor Alliance (ST&LA) formed in 1895. In 1906 its 7000 members joined the International Workers of the World (IWW). By 1908, the IWW was overrun by anarchro-sydicalists who rejected the idea of using political freedom as an educational tool to share with fellow working men and women the idea of industrial unionism. Many members who embraced that method left the IWW and joined the Workers International Industrial Union (WIIU). As that union's publication, Industrial Union News (IUN) reported on the degeneration of the IWW, it became "composed of complaining, individual reprisals, sabotage and revenge...." Lacking the political educational tool, the IWW shrank almost to oblivion and has remained in that state for several decades. In ever increasing numbers, workers began to embrace the motto "a fair days work for a fair days pay." Under that apathetic and complacent mood, the WIIU faded and was disbanded in 1924.
In the wake of massive unemployment, rampant uncertainty and the demise of "mock duck" labor unions led by labor leaders with a fist full of stocks, "a fair days work for a fair days pay," has lost its luster and become a relic of the past. "The chickens have come home to roost." Now, with workers facing the quandary of not knowing were to turn, WIIU has been reactivated to resume industrial union education for the purpose of workers organizing into an all industrial union embracing all branches of production, industrial and service industries, to accomplish what workers had failed to do before, "....organizing production, that has the potential to produce an abundance, to benefit everyone...."
Only "....you and all of your fellow workers--employed, underemployed, working poor (the fastest growing economic sector) and students on the threshold of entering the labor market...." can do it, there is no one else.
Workers International Industrial Union (IWWU) offers fellow workers an organizational plan to reconstruct society enabling it to conduct production to adequately provide the needs of everyone. It requires a new age of reason, of common sense over nonsense. It requires a workers "do it yourself" effort to join together for a common interest based on the one element that each and every worker possess and owns—labor power, the basis for all value.