VI. The social crisis in the developed capitalist countries
26. The most forceful expression of the world crisis is the incapacity of the bourgeoisie to sustain labor legislation and the regimes of social protection, which have been the main popular gains won by the revolutionary struggles of the pre- and post-war. This incapacity obeys a phenomenal fall in the rate of profit, historic, of capital. This fall is a reflection of the incapacity of capital to reproduce itself on its own basis. The overcoming of the crisis of capitalist accumulation demands a drastic increase in the rate of exploitation of the proletariat. From here spring the tendencies towards labor flexibilization in its diverse forms and mass unemployment. From here also springs the tendency towards the liquidation of social protection (health, pensions), because it forms part of the price of labor power that it is necessary to reduce drastically. The crisis of the state budgets are a reflection of this situation. The state attempts, first of all, to deal with the crisis of capital through the transfer of the tax burden to the consumers, the privatization of the economic assets of the State and through public debt; in extreme cases, through inflation and hyperinflation. Afterwards, the burden of the interests and of the debt and the limits of a greater tax burden pose crises for state finances and public services.
Privatization represents the attempt by the bourgeoisie to associate the financing of social security to the cycle of capitalist profits and liquidate, in this way, its character of legal norm which makes the State responsible for the social protection of the workers. In times of crisis, the 'ideal' of the bourgeoisie is to associate the price of labor power with the movement of capitalist profit (that is, losses). From here arises the most extreme proposal for determining wages as a part of profits. Growing unemployment and the relative fall in wages bring about a considerable reduction in contributions to the various forms of social security. Privatization accentuated, in many countries, the crisis since it left the state with less financing for public security. It constituted a formidable instrument of confiscation of the workers, because the resulting revenue financed big capitalist business deals and unprecedented financial speculation. The stock market crash of 2000 in turn provoked the collapse of the privatized systems of social protection, especially those covering benefits and pensions. The current picture is one of simultaneous bankruptcy in social protection, both state-run and private. Regarding health, costs have gone up enormously due to the super-profits of the pharmaceutical monopolies and the privatization of medical attention, which upon adopting a character of capitalist business signified at the same time an enormous increase in cost. The apologists of capitalism attributed this crisis to the relative aging of the population, from which is derived the need to increase the age of retirement. The fallacy of the thesis is proven in that the simultaneous increase in unemployment and upping of the retirement age simply meant an increase in mass unemployment. The protection denied to the one who should be retiring should be destined to the unemployed; the sums total correctly only by abandoning the unemployed.
The reciprocal dependency between the collapse of social and labor rights, on the one hand, and the capitalist crisis, on the other, is made manifest by the fact that as labor productivity increases, capital demands an increase in the workday and in its intensity and the reduction of wages. As the capacity for the creation of social wealth increases, the demand, by capital, for greater social misery also grows. It becomes clear, however, that the increase in the rate of relative exploitation of the worker (through best technology) and in the absolute (greater labor flexibilization) leads to a greater and greater limit placed upon the possibility of obtaining the higher value produced by capital. The way out of this contradiction, which will always be transitory, resides, on the one hand, in the restoration of capital in the former worker states and, on the other, in the devaluing of capital itself making its productive application more profitable. The first way out implies wars and international catastrophes, the second an unprecedented economic crisis, because the devaluing must be preceded by bankruptcy.
27. The defense of the social gains implied by the very life of the workers demands a struggle on a historical scale, which poses once and for all the overthrow of capitalism. This becomes even clearer after the failure of the failure of the attempts at compromise of the trade union bureaucracy, such as exchanging the continuation of social security in exchange for greater contributions of the workers, decrease in benefits or moving up the retirement age; or allowing collective bargaining agreements to descend to the level of the small and medium company.
The IV International puts forward the defense of all these social gains through a system of transitional demands. Regarding social security we put forward nationalization without compensation of all the private retirement systems, under control of the workers. Retirement, a part of the wages of the worker throughout his life, should be paid entirely by the capitalists, as occurs with present wages. The possibility of increasing the retirement age could turn into a positive factor for human development in a social regime without unemployment, where the organization of work is under workers control and integrated with personal vocations, that guarantees education, health, and leisure time, that is, in the framework of a society open to a free decision-making process. Regarding public health we propose workers control of the pharmaceutical monopolies, state medical attention under workers administration and financed under the direct responsibility of the bosses. The defense of health and the workers retirement implies the questioning of the monopoly of capital.
Faced with the scourge of unemployment, we defend, against dismissals, the sliding scale of wages (distribution of working hours in the company without affecting wages), but we add in the distribution of all working hours throughout all society, through a bourse nationale de travail or national labor pool, constituted by the unemployed according to their skills, specialization, residence, age and sex. If the sliding scale of hours presents a challenge to capitalist property in the workplace, the distribution of working hours throughout society presents it on the level of the whole State.
In opposition to the tendency of capital to lengthen the workday, intensify its rhythm, interrupt periods of rest and vacations (annualization of the work periods), to establish non-union and unofficial labor contracts, reduce the minimum wage and wage scales, we say: minimum sliding scale of wages equal to the cost of a family's basic needs; the eight hour workday; collective breaks and vacations, the prohibition of dismissals; no time limit on labor contracts; workers control of working conditions through enterprise committees; collective bargaining agreements through worker representatives chosen and recallable in assemblies. The IV International denounces the limitations of the 35 hour work week agreed to in France, in 1995, because it granted as compensation the freezing of nominal wages, restricted the recognition of overtime and allowed its annualized calculation, permitting in this way the violation of the eight hour day and the right to collective vacations and holidays. In France, unemployment and precarious labor have grown and the general situation of the working class has worsened. For the reduction of the work week to be a real instrument of struggle against unemployment, it must be accompanied by the prohibition against dismissals and against the lengthening of the workday, or the intensification of its pace, with the sliding scale of wages and with workers control capable of determining whether the social result of the reduction of the work week has been a source of progress for the workers.
28. In the course of the present world crisis enormous social and national struggles have taken place, but the proletariat in the principal industrial nations have been relatively absent from them, with the partial exception of South Korea. Some important clashes are marking, however, a change in tendency, for example the occupations of Fiat in Italy in 2002, or those in course in the shipyards of Spain. But the social buffers of the class struggle are tending to dissolve, especially in Europe, because a more and more intense contradiction with capital has initiated. The IV International defends the need to occupy a place in the front ranks in all the struggles sparked by social or national oppression and by the side of all the classes, groups or nationalities that suffer oppression or injustice. The struggle against capital involves all the contradictions and antagonisms created or reinforced by world capitalist domination and among which a relationship of reciprocal dependency is established. If England had been defeated in the Malvinas, in 1982, let us say, the Thatcher government would not have defeated the British miners in 1985. The IV International participates together with the landless of Brazil, Paraguay or Argentina, the coca-leaf peasants of Bolivia and Colombia, the women murdered in Mexico or beaten all over the world, the immigrants without papers, the child slaves, the youth demanding the full right to education and the movement of workers, especially peasants, struggling for the defense and improvement of the environment, for the defense of personal rights of all kinds against the police State which is every capitalist state. The IV International intervenes in those struggles, not in defense of any one particular solution (which are not really that), but rather in order to produce a single international movement for the victory of the socialist revolution. Only participating in the struggles against all, absolutely all, forms of oppression may a workers vanguard claim its place in the combative ranks of the international industrial proletariat.
The closing down of plants and factories and the tendency towards industrial crisis has brought to the fore the occupations of plants and factories and will do so increasingly in the future. The occupations of plants and factories have posed, historically, a series of questions, which are linked to the overall conditions of the struggle. When they are connected to economic bankruptcy, they oppose to the closing or massive dismissals the demand for the expropriation of the company and its being operated under the responsibility of the workers themselves. The IV International raises, in these circumstances, the expropriation without compensation of the capitalists, the confiscation of their private assets, the company being operated with state funds and workers administration of production. According to the level of generalization of the struggle, the formation of a front of occupied and administered plants and factories becomes the order of the day in order to demand as, alternatively, interest free bank funds for operating expenses under workers administration, the intervention of the workers in the administration of the banks and the nationalization without compensation of the financial system under workers direction. While it is clear that workers administration of a plant or factory or group of plants and factories has no future under capitalism, the IV International warns against the intervention of the state or even the nationalization of the plants and factories which are occupied or administered, because they imply a step towards the destruction of workers administration and, when the more general conditions are revolutionary or pre-revolutionary, an instrument against proletarian revolution. To the nationalization of administered plants and factories, on the one hand, and the individual way out of workers cooperatives or self-administration, the IV International opposes the alternative of the front of occupied and administered plants and factories; their intervention in the state and private banks, including the financial nationalization, in order to make workers administration feasible; its alliance with the workers movement as a whole around a common set of demands and in the perspective of a political mass strike. The IV International establishes the distinction between national bourgeois nationalizations against foreign capital, that has a relatively progressive character, and those directed towards substituting workers administration, which go against the possibility of the independent action of the proletariat.
One task of exceptional importance in the present crisis is the organization of the unemployed. This organization not only attenuates the rivalry between the workers stimulated by capital but also tends to convert itself into a powerful revolutionary arsenal, given that the unemployed represent the hardest hit and most desperate sector among the masses and that which concentrates the dissolution of capital as such. This revolutionary potential explains the obstinate opposition of the trade union bureaucracy to their organization, which however is irreplaceable in order to accomplish the most prized union task of them all, which is the attenuation of competition among the workers. To the extent that the revolutionary vanguard makes the effort to organize the unemployed, by applying pressure in the trade unions and outside them, and converts this organization of the jobless into a movement of solidarity with the employed workers who struggle against lay-offs and labor flexibilization, that vanguard achieves an unprecedented closeness to the working class as a whole in the most advanced terrain possible. The fundamental demand of the unemployed is the right to life and to work, that is, unemployment insurance, on the one hand, and access to jobs, on the other. In the face of the attempts by the State to adulterate insurance for the unemployed in the form of clientele social welfare the IV International demands workers control, that is of the unemployed, over unemployment insurance and over any form of remuneration for the jobless workers. We denounce the World Bank and the NGO's who defend social welfare in order to control the unemployed workers and turn those social welfare plans into a form of social exploitation which competes with the employed worker. We denounce, fundamentally, the campaign of the international center-left, in particular that of Brazil, Argentina and France, that have made their own the demand of neo-liberalism for a minimum citizen's wage. This subsistence wage aims to turn mass unemployment into the 'status-quo' and to establish as a wage floor for labor power subsistence remuneration granted to the unemployed family. In opposition to these open or perverse attacks against the living conditions of the workers, the IV International struggles for an end to unemployment through the distribution of working hours, the minimum wage equal to the cost of a family's basic needs, unemployment insurance, the occupation of the plants and factories that close their doors, the sliding scale of working hours against dismissals, the adoption of plans of public works under control of the trade unions and the organizations of the unemployed, the progressive tax on capital and the centralization of all the resources necessary to confront the great social crisis in the hands of the organizations controlled or managed by the workers.
The IV International calls attention to the exceptional activity of women and youth in the movements and organizations of the unemployed. This intervention obeys the fact that they are the hardest hit by unemployment. The action of the woman not only modifies the picture of the struggle of the unemployed but also the social atmosphere taken as a whole, that is, which represents a shake-up on a vaster scale, one which frightens above all the clergy and its followers. The presence of the unemployed woman in the class struggle tends to exceed the political limits of the feminist movement, by introducing in them the struggle against capital. The action of the woman has an influence also in the formation of the workers vanguard, on the one hand because it incorporates into its files a protagonist of greater revolutionary potential, and on the other because it corrects the tendency towards demoralization that unemployment, especially when permanent, makes manifest in the masculine proletariat. The IV International includes in its conclusions the enormous significance that the presence of the woman has in the struggle of the exploited, salutes its contribution and calls for the consequences it has for the reconstruction of the proletarian vanguard to be extracted.
The attack against social security, the closing down of plants and factories, the greater labor flexibilization, the reduction of wages, will give rise to a period of important struggles for demands. The IV International calls, especially under these conditions, to participate actively in the trade unions, even the most reactionary; to form within them class struggle fractions; to incorporate the non-unionized into the struggle, demanding for them sovereignty in the making of decisions, by means of the regime of assemblies, the forming of strike committees, the organization of a coordination between the factories of the same region, independently of its union affiliation. On the basis of this method of intervention the expulsion of the bureaucracy from the unions is necessary together with the forming of class struggle and revolutionary trade union leaders. The persistence of the bureaucracy in the leadership of the trade unions in the course of the great workers struggles on the horizon compromises the possibilities of a victory over the bosses and the State.