TRC contributor, Tesha Miller
Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration. ~ Abraham Lincoln
In the United States, class struggle isn’t a new concept but one which remains greatly ignored by our educational institutions and news media groups, alike. The consequences to our nation for the blatant disregard of this economic feature weaken the ability to effectively react to and organize against economic attacks made contrary to the working-classes’ best interest. What you don’t know can hurt you and comprehending the nature of class struggle is paramount to understanding the workings of the economy and one’s own role within it.
What we aren’t in short supply of, are the explanations about the importance of markets to our economy or how the laws of supply and demand are a central fixed feature to human activity. These buttresses of capitalism are relentlessly preached from every major media pulpit and are neatly interwoven with concepts of democracy, such that, the very notion that one can exist without the other seems impossible to the average American.
It’s the labor, stupid.
In the most basic sense, labor produces something of use; there is a tangible good or service provided which benefits a real economy. Resources are often the foundation of labor and must be considered an essential part of the economy. That tree (over there) becomes a table, should labor craft it into one, for example. Labor is superior to capital because it always advances the practical notion of a real world and one in which humans have physical needs. Labor’s primary function is to fulfill some kind of a need.
Capital, on the other hand, has managed to move beyond this basic concept of a real economy and the investments necessary to provide the goods and services needed by men and ventured into the territory of a false economy, through financialization. This new banking wizardry has manufactured a fictional economy which has become the equivalent of a parasite to the working-class. Investments no longer just support the furtherance of a real economy but often act counter to people’s well-being. Excessive speculation, for example, can drive up costs of raw materials well beyond the ability for them to be used in production or commodities can become priced out of the reach of the consumer and cause starvation and untold misery.
All of the past class struggles meant to elevate labor: workers safety protections, child labor laws, minimum wage standards, etc., which achieved a decent standard of living and developed a sizable middle class for the US, are now being undermined by this fictional banking world, which siphons wealth from the real economy and concentrates it into the hands of a few. The bankers of Wall Street have no intention to ease the suffering of the working-class in this inverted economy because labor’s financial loss is their immediate gain. Cutting benefit packages of workers, for example, can make the purchase of a corporate stock seem more attractive and steeply increase its value. Not only have these practices been responsible for aggregated wealth to the top 1% at unprecedented levels, they are also wrestling power away from the people and decimating the democratic process itself.
“They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob.” ~ FDR, 1936
The failure of government to intervene on behalf of labor to stop these practices has created an environment for finance capital to thrive over the last several decades: even as workers’ wages have stagnated since the 1970’s, even as millions have been tossed from their foreclosed homes, even as the dollar has weakened, even as millions have lost employment, even as millions have lost benefits, even as thousands fight and die in wars designed to secure more natural resources, even as they come after our social security insurance, even as they come after tax dollars set aside to help feed our needy and elderly, even as they dismantle US factories and ship them abroad, even as they let our family members die from lack of healthcare.
So when they tell you that this isn’t a class war, or that your labor is unimportant, or that you have to compete with a developing nation’s wages or benefits due to lackluster profit margins, or that the wealth will trickle down, or that the only way to balance a budget is on the backs of the working-class, or that we need to pay over 1 trillion a year for warfare, or that you’re Un-American for caring about your fellow countrymen’s general welfare, or that it’s unreasonable to feed the poor, or that banks are too big to fail and can’t be prosecuted for overt criminal activity, or to just go and find a job…when they tell you these things out of ignorance or smug indifference to the suffering of others; please remind them that this country was built with labor’s blood and sweat and that we have just as much a right to stake a claim in the way this nation operates and who will benefit from it, as they do. Tell them that change is going to come because we value what is real and that means each other.