, Volume 39, Issue 1, pp 155-173

Communists and the Fight for Jobs and Revolution

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Abstract

Winning in the battle for jobs is two-fold: making gains in jobs and relief, and making gains in the development of anti-racist revolutionary class consciousness. Marxists and institutionalists have shown theoretically that unemployment is endemic to capitalism. The global experience of the 20th century validates this view. Efforts to ease the negative social effects of unemployment can modestly and temporarily assist distressed unemployed workers and their families, but only when there is a significant grassroots mobilization—at both local and national levels—to struggle for such improvements. Communist organizers have often been the most effective leaders of struggles against unemployment and its effects by relying on mobilizations of unemployed, employed, and unionized workers. Communist organizations have often combined efforts to win “survival” reforms (i.e., attempts to keep unemployed workers’ heads above water) with agitation and education about the need to end unemployment permanently with socialist and/or communist revolution. Two examples of these struggles are described: the Unemployed Council of St. Petersburg in 1905–06 and the unemployed councils initiated by the Communist International (the Comintern) during the early 1930s, with an emphasis on the U.S. experience. Lessons for today’s global struggle against unemployment are drawn from these earlier experiences.