Sunday, February 06, 2011

The New Proletariat and the Coming Revolution

While students protested government increases in tuition and cuts to Education in Britain, the youth revolt has spread to the Middle East. The proletariat is no longer just blue collar, white collar or pink collar workers, it includes the mass of unemployed and underemployed educated youth who have embraced the calls to freedom to lead the seismic shift that is occurring around the world and in Egypt and the Middle East in Particular.

"In most Arab countries, a majority of the population is under 30, and unemployment rates are exceptionally high for young workers, who are the most likely to rebel," economist Chris Lafakis of Moody's Analytics said in a report today, as masses gathered in Cairo's Liberation Square and Jordan's King Abdullah sacked the government amid mounting street protests. "In Egypt and Saudi Arabia, almost 90 per cent of unemployed workers are under 30," Mr. Lafakis said. "As evidence of the risk of revolution contagion, Syria's president has already signaled that he will push for more political reforms. The events in Egypt could also spark unrest in Sudan, a politically unstable country where demonstrations are already occurring and citizens have voted to partition the country."

I have been saying for years on this blog that two groups not often considered part of the classic definition of the proletariat, but in fact are, are women and youth.

Now we see with the revolt in Tunisia and now Egypt that unemployment and rising food prices have brought out both women and youth to demonstrate against the dictators who run their countries. In Europe and North America young people face democratic governments but the same crisis of capitalism, where the governments are now demanding austerity measures, cuts to public services, to pay for bailing out the capitalist corporations and banks.

'From sacking lollipop ladies and closing youth clubs to axing college grants and trebling tuition fees, this is a government at war with our young people and therefore at war with our future. It is betraying an entire generation,' said general secretary of the (British) University and College Union, Sally Hunt.

In Canada the youth unemployment rate is double the national average, and it is increasing not decreasing. The annual unemployment rate for youth in Canada is 14%.

And while more women are in the workforce than ever before they are older, not younger women.

Employment among women aged 25 and over increased in January (+55,000), with gains for both the 25 to 54 and 55 and over age groups.Over the past 12 months, however, employment growth for women was concentrated among those aged 55 and over.

In the U.S. it is even higher and adds to further high unemployment stats amongst blacks and Hispanics.

Youth unemployment rates in all categories is an average of 18% in the United States, approaching Egyptian and Tunisian levels, but joblessness among young African-Americans and Hispanics are among the highest in the world. This poses a future political problem for the world’s richest nation.The US Department of Labor report in December 2010 broke out unemployment and participation rates into three categories: White unemployment is 8.5%, or below the national average of 9%; African-American is 15.8% and Hispanic at 13%.

Everyone compared the meltdown of 2008 to the Great Depression, and they were right, however the bail out of the banks and corporations to save capitalism from itself has not resolved the contradiction that this has been again another global jobless recovery. The very soul of the Great Depression was not the collapse of Wall Street but the mass global unemployment crisis of capitalism. That same crisis is with us today despite the bailouts!

Global economic growth is on the rebound but the labor market continues to disappoint with 205 million people unemployed in 2010, according to a UN report. The number is not expected to improve much this year. Labor markets in Europe, Africa and South America are struggling to recover from the crisis that hit them in 2008. Europe's young people under 25 are facing an especially difficult situation. The youth unemployment rate is now at a record level of 21%.

So why have not seen mass protests in North America like those that have occurred in England, Europe and now the Middle East? Because despite mass unemployment, neither the Harper nor Obama governments have brought in austerity programs like the Cameron government has. The austerity measures which have been introduced in Ireland, Greece, Spain, etc. have led to mass protests and have failed to actually resolve the continuing crisis of these Capitalist states.

Once the Harper and Obama governments begin to cut, slash, reduce, freeze, public sector spending then we will see a rage amongst youth that will make the tea party look like well a tea party.

The bail out of capitalism has not solved the crisis of capitalism, it can't. And using the tired old neo-liberal solutions of slashing government spending, which is social capital, will not succeed as the Cameron government has found out.

Furthermore unlike North America, which produces food for export, those importing food are facing a constant inflationary battle. A battle which leads to mass protests.

A recent Economist piece gives insight into the pressures felt:

Outside America, food has a bigger share than energy in consumers’ shopping baskets—and thus in inflation too (see chart). In developing countries, rising food prices can be a human as well as an economic disaster. In Asia in early 2008 a spike in the price of rice led to widespread unrest and desperate attempts by governments to secure more supplies. In December in India, for example, food prices rose at an annual rate of 14%, and there has been a run on onions, a dietary staple. Read more:

The crisis is not over, it is spreading, and youth unemployment and rising food prices, are needed for capitalism to function, no different than has been since Marx wrote about it over 150 years ago.

1 comment:

The Mound of Sound said...

Unfortunately Eugene we're facing a much bigger struggle, one that may be only marginally political. What lies at the very heart of today's food crisis and ensures its perpetuation? Climate change.

That extra 4% of water vapour we have added to the atmosphere over the past three decades ensures that the whipsaw of flood and drought we've seen hammer Africa, Australia, the Middle East, south Asia, South and Central America, the US southwest, even Russia, isn't going away.

Not only a potent greenhouse gas in its own right, that extra water vapour, combined with a steadily warming atmosphere, fuels ever more frequent, more severe storm events even as it alters essential precipitation patterns.

At the same time we're facing a very real, potentially cataclysmic freshwater crisis. That additional atmospheric water vapour is mainly drawn from normal surface water sources. Meanwhile we're draining our aquifers to support irrigation to keep the irrational Green Revolution ticking over.

The impact of all of these problems arrives at one place - the market stalls. Not being able to get a decent job, not being able to fulfill your aspirations become relatively inconsequential when you haven't food to eat or fresh water to drink.