The Right to a Livelihood

February 14, 2010

The Workers Party says that a job or a livelihood is a right. We insist that it is the elementary responsibility of society to guarantee, in law and in practice, that everyone has a secure job or stable livelihood commensurate with our country's high level of economic development. If society doesn't guarantee this right and create the conditions necessary for its realization, where can the individual turn?

Guarantying jobs would not only provide every individual with economic security, but, at the same time, dramatically accelerate our country's all-around economic development. What could be more destructive – to both the individual and society as a whole – than forced unemployment which prevents millions of workers from using their human faculties to secure their own livelihood by carrying on socially useful labor?

Since guarantying the right to a job is in the interests of the overwhelming majority of individuals as well as society as a whole, what is blocking the realization of this right?
It is the system of private capitalist ownership. Under the present economic system, the capitalist owners have the "right" to cut down on production, re-locate or close workplaces as well as determine the level of wages because the factories and other means of production are considered the "private property" of the capitalists. But, in reality, our country's means of production (mines and factories, communications networks and transportation system, etc. and so forth) are not private but social in character. These means of production are the product of generations of labor and are only set in motion through the combined, cooperative labor of the workers. Our country's entire economy is, in fact, based on social division of labor amongst some 120 million workers. Thus the decision to cut back on staff or close down a workplace is not a "private" matter but a social matter which affects the very lives of the workers as well as the interests of society as a whole. By monopolizing the tools of society, the capitalist class literally holds the power of life and death over the workers who have been disenfranchised from the means necessary to secure a livelihood.

Not only is the capitalist system unable to guarantee the livelihood of tens of millions of people but it is also preventing the all-around development of our country's economy. During the last 30 years and more, even during periods of recovery, corporate downsizing has continued, condemning millions to unemployment, forcing tens of millions into part-time, temporary jobs or jobs which do not even pay a living wage. At the same time, factories and production lines remain idle and vital social needs are unmet. It is precisely because capitalism is organized on the narrow basis of maximizing profits for a few, that it cannot set in motion the vast productive power of our modern economy – including the labor of millions of workers – in order to guarantee the well-being of the people, in order to guarantee such vital necessities as housing and health care.

Guarantying the right to a job is one of the immediate steps that must be taken in order to overcome the effects of the deepening economic crisis and open the path for the progress of our country. Guarantying this right involves planning economic development from the point of view of the well-being of the people. It involves a struggle against the economic and political power of the monopoly capitalist class.