Friday, December 30, 2011

Casinos, capitalists and class struggle

The rush of Massachusetts to build casinos and other gambling dens makes me crazy.  The casinos are sold to us as a jobs program - this is almost a pure scam.  It is as if the 1% were to hire a small number of the 99% to construct, and then operate, a gigantic vacuum cleaner, the sole purpose of which was to suck money out of the pockets of the 99%, and deposit it in the bank accounts of the 1%.

Compare this with a genuine jobs bill - the Conyers bill, HR 870, which would tax the 1% (through a small financial transactions tax) and use the proceeds to hire some of the 99% to build and repair things (schools, roads, bridges) that belong to the 99%.

In today's political parlance, the second bill – the genuine jobs bill – is considered class warfare.  Casino construction, which employs some people to better exploit others, is not.  Essentially, "class warfare", for the punditry, is a term used to describe anything that acts effectively to the detriment of one specific class - the ruling class.

Even a casual student of Marx knows that the class struggle is not an option - something one chooses to engage in, or not.  It is an inevitable side effect of a class society.  As long as the economy is structured so that one particular class – feudal landowners, slave-owners, or capitalists – derives its income solely and explicitly by the exploitation of others (aka the workers), then you have a class society, one feature of which will be a struggle over the degree of exploitation.

A Keynesian analysis of a capitalist economy suggests there may be some "sweet spot" for the capitalist class, a level of wages that balances off increased demand and economic activity against a reduced profit margin, so as to maximize the capitalists' overall net income.  But there's no magic way to detect this "sweet spot", and the capitalists' greed is such that they will tend to overshoot when it comes to driving down wages.  Also, manipulating the overall wage rate in the economy, so as to manipulate demand, is beyond the power of most individual capitalists, or even cartels. 

At a given level of output and technology, the individual capitalist can only increase his income by increasing the level of exploitation - his profit.  Any such increase in profit comes directly out of the worker's wages.  So struggle is inevitable.  The only question is whether the workers resist low wages individually (in which case the majority of them are bound to lose), or collectively, through labor unions and political action, in which case they have a chance.  It is this latter form of collective struggle that the right wing insists on calling "class warfare".

A genuine jobs bill, like the Conyers bill, would strengthen the working class, lessen inequality, and make the 99% genuinely better off.  The casino alternative plays some in the working class against others, and its overall effect is to further the impoverishment of the 99% with respect to the 1%. 

Some with in the Occupy movement have started saying "They only call it 'class warfare' when we fight back."  I would add that they only call it "class warfare" when we adopt a strategy that might actually win results.

No comments:

Post a Comment