When a country faces economic problems, it immediately calls for an austerity program to deal with the situation. Austerity does not mean that the wealthy will have to surrender their jet planes or their yachts, or use of personal expenses as tax write-offs.
No, it is always defined by how social programs for the working class and poor, as well as the safety net for the indigent, can be reduced. Those who could afford it least, must assume the burden for the solution of the economic problems created by the wealthy and propertied class.
While hedge fund operators, bankers, and the financial industry gamblers create schemes to make the “big bucks,” when things collapse, the workers pay the bills.
On September 2, 150 million workers in India went on strike. The unions were protesting plans announced by Prime Minister Modi to deprive large segments of India’s workforce of labour law protection at the behest of local and foreign investors. Workers from all sectors, in tens of millions stood in solidarity with one another to tell the government that its writ will not run and that they will not accept the attack on wages and trade union rights.
India is a country with many different cultural/religious groups. And yet, they were able to successfully organize this widespread, overwhelming action by workers. Why were they successful? They are well unionized and organized, something the workers in the U.S. are not.
Finland’s unions represent some 2.2 million people—nearly half of the country’s population.
On Tuesday, September 15, the government of Finland announced that there will be changes in how things are done.
Workers will have restrictions placed on their sick days . . . the first day will be an unpaid day and 80% of the workers pay will be paid for days 2—9.
Overtime pay will be halved and Sunday pay will be reduced to 75 per cent.
Epiphany and Ascension Day will be changed into unpaid public holidays without reducing annual working time.
Long holidays, particularly in the public sector, will be shortened from 38 to 30 working days.
The private employer’s social security contribution will be reduced by 1.72 percentage points from the beginning of 2017.
Weekday holidays will be days without pay.
Cuts will be made to overtime and Sunday work compensation.
How did the workers respond? They called for a city-wide strike in Helsinki, shutting down ports, and mass transit, and delaying flights at the airports, bringing the city to a virtual standstill.
Many countries outside the U.S. provide benefits for workers that workers in the U.S. cannot even begin to hope for.
Workers in most European countries have 6 weeks paid vacation time every year; workers are guaranteed free health care; all children are guaranteed a free public education which for some includes college; many countries provide a paid one year maternity leave for women who give birth; some countries also provide for a shorter but paid paternity leave after their wives give birth; in some countries, in the middle of the work day, businesses close for 3 hours and workers return home to have lunch with their families before going back to work (this is what we call family values . . . here, in the U.S., it is nothing more than meaningless political rhetoric).
Yet, here in the U.S. the people are placid and suffer silently, waiting for another election day so we can put people in office that truly represent us. But that day never seems to happen. Why? Because the deck is stacked against working people and the poor.
Most of our elected representatives are monied people, either millionaires or close brothers and sisters to millionaires. In order to get elected to national office, they depend on the financial support of those who have even more money than they. Let’s be honest, the wealthy class will never voluntarily surrender any of their advantages. The only way we will ever get an even playing field is to take the benefits of wealth and power away from them.
Working people have an advantage in their numbers. In Finland and India, the workers mobilized an action that forced the wealthy class to take notice.
The workers here have that same power. The only difference is that we seem to lack the will to take meaningful action. There is a very low percentage of workers that are unionized in the U.S., leaving them vulnerable to the whims and policies of management.
Here, in the U.S. we are involved in class warfare and the people do not seem aware of it. When workers complain about the expanding inequities and wide disparity in income and wealth between the haves and have nots, they are accused of class warfare.
Such accusations are nothing more than a ploy by the “upper” class and their representatives to put workers on the defensive and immobilize any organized movement. After all, we’re nice people and do not want to begrudge those who are “successful,” their “well earned” advantages. We must adhere to the fantasy of the “American Dream,” where someday, we might be among the wealthy.
Truth be told, there is now and always has been class warfare in the U.S. It has been the ruling class, the wealthy, that have declared war on workers and have maintained their warlike stance for many decades. That is why any attempt by the working class to unionize has been fought against ferociously by the capitalists and their legislative representatives in government.
The ethos of capitalism is to make as much profit as possible. A major variable to that goal is to have labor costs be as low as possible. By that very definition, capitalism must, by its very nature, be anti-worker. The capitalist is the ENEMY of the working class.
Therefore, to place our hopes in the hands of millionaire political representatives is naive. The periodic elections are nothing more than a sham that works to maintain the capitalistic structure of our society. Capitalism and its buddy Imperialism are, by their very nature, the cause of much of the human suffering throughout the world.
We, the American workers, must learn from India and Finland. If the “leaders” of our country are going to f—k with us, there must be consequences. And, when we shut the country down and the capitalists start to lose money, which is their religion, they will take notice. We can no longer afford to allow there to be business as usual.
In the end, the only long lasting solution to man’s existential problems is the acceptance and implementation of a communist and/or socialist economic structure, one that has a communal agenda and where research and production is in response to human need and not to the individual’s desire for personal wealth.
To successfully convert our society into a more humane one, not only is it necessary to organize workers into unions, but to develop a true workers’ party . . . a communist or socialist party that is separate from the Democratic Party, one that will be accountable to the working class.
GOD BLESS AMERIKA!!!
Dave Alpert has masters degrees in social work, educational administration, and psychology. He spent his career working with troubled inner city adolescents.