THE GOVERNOR of the Bank of England Mark Carney is a very worried man. Giving him sleepless nights is the spectre of a working class being revolutionised by capitalist crisis and embracing revolutionary Marxism as the only way forword out of this crisis. Carney made his fears clear at his keynote address last week to the Canada Growth Summit in Toronto.
He used this speech to warn that massive job losses caused by automation and the growth in technology will force millions of workers and middle class white collar workers out of work.
The huge job losses in turn would bring with it weak wage growth for those lucky enough to still have a job. This, Carney, laments would mean ‘Marx and Engels may again become relevant’ as workers see their jobs destroyed through new technology while the bosses increase their profits.
Carney went back to 19th century Britain to illustrate the dangers facing capitalism today, citing the experience 150 years ago when the industrial revolution really took off, vastly increasing the productivity in manufacturing, yet this was not accompanied by any increase in the poverty level wages paid to workers.
Despite this increase in productivity ‘average wages stagnated for decades as machines meant the jobs created were low-skilled’ and according to Carney the lack of any real increase in wages for workers since the financial crash in 2008 ‘could indicate this 19th century experience is being repeated now.’ Carney went on: ‘If you substitute platforms for textile mills, machine learning for steam engines, twitter for the telegraph, you have exactly the same dynamics as existed 150 years ago – when Karl Marx was scribbling the Communist Manifesto.’
The automation of millions of jobs could lead, Carney warned his audience, to a rise of Marxism and the growth of communism ‘within a generation’. Carney is wrong historically about what he termed the ‘Engels pause’, that is the decades from the end of the 18th to the end of the 19th century, before wages started to increase for workers as being just some unfortunate time lag, he certainly has not read what Marx actually wrote.
Marx wrote: ‘Wages are determined through the antagonistic struggle between capitalist and worker.’ (Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844). For the capitalist, who basically makes his profit by paying the worker far less than the worker produces in value in the course of production, the ideal level of wages is that which provides the worker with just enough to survive in order to turn up for work the next day.
What changed at the end of the 19th century was the explosive growth in trade unions prepared to fight for wage increases. This coincided with the heyday of British imperialism and the vast profits that it made out of the exploitation of the peoples of the world. These vast profits enabled the capitalist class to ‘buy-off’ workers with limited pay increases. There was no automatic trickle down of wage rises from the benefits of mechanisation – every pay increase had to be fought for by workers through their trade unions.
Today capitalism is so bankrupt that it cannot afford any concessions over wages. The crime of the present trade union leaders is their refusal to lead any fight over pay, instead completely accepting austerity, pay freezes and caps imposed by the Tories. As Carney recognises, the working class has reached the point where it will not tolerate wages that cannot sustain any kind of life or face a future of starving as benefits are cut in order to maintain the profits of the capitalists.
Workers are, as Carney fears, being forced to embrace Marxism and understand that the antagonistic struggle between capitalist and worker that he analysed must be taken forward today to the struggle to overthrow capitalism through socialist revolution.
This requires a new leadership in the unions that is prepared to lead this struggle for power by calling a general strike to kick out the Tories and go forward to a workers government and socialism. This is the only way that the working class can secure decent wages and any future.
Leading the fight for this leadership is the Workers Revolutionary Party. Join today!