Jobs, lives hit as profit-driven bosses shut operations

By Roy Landersen
March 30, 2020

Hundreds of millions of working people in the United States and worldwide are being hit with mounting devastation to the lives and livelihoods of ourselves and our families, due to the capitalist rulers’ demonstrated incapacity to contain and reverse today’s coronavirus pandemic. Massive shutdowns are already costing workers jobs, and countless more layoffs are to come.

Those still employed — from factories and warehouses, to retail stores, large and small — face profit-driven speedup and pressures to cut corners on health and safety. Managers brand workers who speak up or resist as anti-social. The futures of family farmers, owners of shops and small businesses, and owner-operator truck drivers, already sinking in bank debt, are threatened.

These capitalist breakdowns are multiplying at the very time production on a huge and emergency scale is needed more than ever worldwide: from anti-viral drugs and vaccines to medical equipment; from new hospitals, beds and isolation units to oxygen supplies, ventilators and food. Working people need to organize to fight for the government to take these steps.

World stock, bond and oil markets are swinging wildly, including the steepest falls since the Great Depression of the 1930s. A global recession, or worse, looms. Meanwhile, superrich capitalist investors are panicking, rushing to preserve their wealth by turning fast depreciating paper assets into dollars.

Whatever the amount of the one-off checks the Donald Trump administration and many Republican and Democratic politicians are floating trial balloons about — $1,000, or even more — this won’t cover everyday necessities for working families, let alone emergencies, medical or otherwise, for much more than a couple weeks.

Governments around the world are imposing draconian shutdowns. Travel is barred, borders sealed, quarantines and “shelter-in-place” decrees issued and curbs on public activity and jobs tightened. The brakes on global production and trade are being slammed.

Jobs in the airlines, airports, restaurants, hotels, cruise ships, and entertainment are hit hard. United Airlines bosses warned their 100,000 employees of “painful” job cuts. Management of the Marriott hotel chain has placed tens of thousands on unpaid leave.

Another external shock hit March 9, as an oil price war erupted between the rival capitalist rulers of Saudi Arabia and Russia. With the slump in sea, air and land transport, global petroleum demand was already falling. This shrinking market was flooded with cut-price crude oil by Aramco, the world’s biggest producer. Smaller U.S. oil shale companies, with big debts from costly drilling and fracking, are feeling the squeeze too. Tens of thousands of workers in the industry face layoffs.

Reversal of ‘globalization’

The coronavirus emergency registers a turning point in what for years has been dubbed “globalization.” After the global recession of 2008-09, the sluggish recovery of output and trade became more dependent on the boom in low-wage manufacturing from China. This year, factory production in China contracted for the first time in three decades, steeply sharpened by the coronavirus crisis.

This disrupted seemingly stable global supply chains for tech companies, carmakers and drug manufacturers. The vulnerability of such long supply lines and “just-in-time” inventories has been pricked. “Globalization” is now shifting into reverse, in face of capital’s need for secure sources of parts and materials.

The disastrous results of cutthroat profit maximization is accelerating the coming apart of the European Union and other imperialist pacts, as the rulers defend their rival national interests. To counter these inhuman effects, working people need to find the road to international solidarity, along the road pointed out by Cuba’s socialist revolution.

For decades imperialist governments — in order to postpone or cushion the coming home to roost of capital’s long-term falling rate of profit — have cranked out “easy money.” Especially since 2008-09, central banks have pushed interest rates very low, some almost to zero or below.

The bubbles from this artificial, debt-fueled “prosperity” are now rapidly deflating. And the grinding crisis for hundreds of millions of workers and farmers worldwide is suddenly, very suddenly, getting a lot worse.