In South Africa, there are millions and millions of people unemployed. In fact, almost 40% people over the age of 18 in South Africa don’t have any form of paid work. Amongst young people between the ages of 18 and 25, unemployment is even worse with almost 70% having no work. Under such conditions, people are forced to live in extreme poverty – because, under capitalism and the state system, if you don’t have money; you can’t get the things you need for a decent life.
The fact that millions of people are unemployed, however, is not an accident. Capitalism and the state system create and entrench inequality and unemployment. Under capitalism and state systems, the rich and politicians have come to own most things, through exploitation and force. The state, through its laws and police, keeps this massively unequal situation in place and protects the interests and property of the rich and politicians. In fact, since 1994, the rich in South Africa – made up of black and white capitalists and politicians – have got richer; while the poor – made up of a majority of blacks but also including whites – have got much poorer. So since 1994 the income of the richest 5% of the population has increased by 37% in real terms; while the income of the poorest half of the population fell by 40%. This means that although workers produce and make everything in society - like buildings, machines and food - the law and private property gives the capitalists and politicians the right to claim most these products for themselves and to exploit workers and the poor.
Unemployment is also part of the inequalities of capitalism and the state systems. Under capitalism, capitalists are not interested in producing things to meet people’s needs or to create jobs; rather the rich start businesses to make profits. The only way they can make big profits is by hiring only a few people and by working them hard – exploiting them. By employing less people and working them hard bosses make bigger profits (they can pay them little and don’t have to hire more people). You can therefore see that capitalism is not interested in employing everyone who wants or is are able to work. On the contrary: a minimum of 'hands' and a maximum of effort is the principle of the capitalist system. This is why there will always be unemployment under a capitalist system.
Unemployment is also used by bosses to drive down wages. When people are unemployed, they will take almost any job even if it is badly paid or dangerous – this happens because under capitalism people need money to survive. Linked to this, the threat of unemployment is used as a whip by bosses, forcing workers to work hard and 'behave'. The fact we have one of the highest unemployment rates in the world and that half the people employed in South Africa earn less than R 2500 a month is linked. Unemployment in South Africa, and the threat of unemployment, allows capitalists in South Africa to keep wages low.
To begin to fight inequality and against exploitation we need to fight for jobs and increased wages together here and now, in order to begin winning back what the rich and politicians have stolen from us. But if we want to get rid of unemployment and inequality forever we have to get rid of the state and capitalism in the future. As long as you have capitalism - or any other system of labor exploitation and profit-making - you will have unemployment. Capitalism can't exist without it: it is inherent in the wage system that underpins capitalism. It is the fundamental condition of successful capitalist production. If we want a fair and just society we, therefore, need to win a system beyond capitalism and the state and replace these with a society based on direct democracy (where people use self-governance to collectively run everything), a society where all the wealth is socialised, and where workers and communities self-manage workplaces and the economy through direct democracy and participatory planning. Only in such as society will everyone have work, only in such a society can racism and sexism be ended, and only in such a society will everyone’s needs be met.
If you wish to find out more about SOS’s campaign to fight against unemployment and for direct democracy and community and worker self-management contact