Education is very important for our country and our people. If we want to develop our economy to overcome poverty, we have to improve the skills and capacity of our people. A free education policy is necessary to ensure access for all despite a citizen’s wealth. Without a free admissions and school fees policy, equal access is not possible.
Today we have increasing number of young people from poor families who are not attending school at all levels because they are not able to pay school fees.
No young person should be excluded from attending school because they cannot afford to pay school fees.
No one should be sent home from school or refused results of tests or exams if fees have not been paid. All our young people must be entitled to a free, quality education.
When any young person fails to acquire the basic skills needed to function as a productive, responsible member of society, society as a whole – not to mention the individual young person – loses. The cost of educating our young people is far outweighed by the cost of not educating them. Adults who lack basic skills have greater difficulty finding well-paying jobs and escaping poverty. Education for girls has particularly striking social benefits: incomes are higher and maternal and infant mortality rates are lower for educated women, who also have more personal freedom in choices.
Even the International Monetary Fund in its report of 2004 – Educating Children in Poor Countries – concluded, “User payments for basic education should never be more than a temporary solution: the ideal arrangement and the appropriate goal of education policy remain universal education financed by government out of public revenues. User payments are undesirable because they are a regressive tax when school attendance is compulsory. Voluntary user payments are undesirable because children are excluded from schooling if their parents are unable or unwilling to pay school fees.”
And why should the burden of educating our young people be solely left on the already overburdened shoulders of the parents? Do these parents, in the true sense of the word, really “own” these children for them to alone bear the burden of their education? What one truly owns one can easily sale. Can these parents sale “their” children without risking going to jail? Why should we jail them for selling that which is theirs? The truth is that these children don’t belong to the parents – they are collectively our children. But how can we have rights to these children without the duties of educating them, feeding them and so on and so forth? There can be no rights without duties. It is, therefore, our collective duty as a nation to educate these children of ours.
Education is the cornerstone of economic and social development. This is why we socialists argue in favour of free, decent education for everyone – so that individuals and society as a whole can maximise the potential for improving our lives through innovation, efficiency and imagination.
In a period of capitalist upswing, capitalism can afford to grant reforms such as free education. In fact during such a period it is profitable for the capitalist state to invest in education as a way of developing the forces of economic production. But capitalism requires constant expansion into new markets in order to survive. Thanks to globalisation capitalism has few foreign markets left to penetrate, so the capitalists must look to areas of the domestic market previously untouched by private capital – areas such as education – to quench their thirst for profit. Thus we have generally seen incremental increases in tuition fees over the last decade or so – a reflection of the marketisation of education.
The crisis suffered by capitalism a decade ago brought the capitalists an opportunity to intensify the process of tearing open education and subjecting it to exploitation by capital. This intensification has also been motivated by the extremely unstable economic climate which drives individual capitalists to be even more brutally competitive than they were in the previous period.
Crucially, this crisis is not a cyclical crisis but an organic crisis of overproduction – a crisis of the system as a whole. The only way the capitalists can get out of such a crisis is by destroying the forces of production through austerity, attacks on working conditions and casualisation of labour. At a time when they are so intent on destroying the excess productive capacity in the system, the last thing they want to do is invest in the education of young people which would result in an increase in productive capacity.
This is the context in which the working class and its allies must wage the struggle for free education. What should be immediately obvious is that capitalism cannot afford free education. This is not an ideological question – governments of all shades across the world are faced with the same task of cutting back the forces of production and implementing privatisation programmes in order to keep capitalism afloat. The point is that this isn’t a case of badly managed capitalism, it’s a product of the inherent contradictions of capitalism that require the pursuit of profit at all costs and precipitate economic crises of overproduction.
This gloomy future is all that capitalism can offer: a world in which the increased marketisation of education is inevitable as the capitalists constantly seeks new avenues of profit in the midst of a globally stagnant economy. There is no going back to the golden age of the post-war boom when it was possible to win reforms under capitalism.
This is why we socialists are fighting for an alternative to capitalism in the form of a democratic, socialist plan of production. We argue that free education can be won and safeguarded to serve the needs of everyone, not just those with the money. We understand that education and research have to be funded.
We are not short of money to fund education.And moreover, the children of the well-to-do have free education – paid for by these same humble workers whose children can’t go to school because of fees. And we shouldn’t forget that all the money in government coffers and in private enterprises is generated by the workers!
There’s a lot of workers’ money – NAPSA and other pension funds – sitting in banks and being misused to build shopping malls and other unnecessary things of no or little benefit to the workers. Instead of leaving it up to individual profit-seeking capitalists and their agents in government to decide how this money should be invested, the working class should decide on a democratic basis where the wealth produced by them is invested – without a doubt there would be reasonable amounts available for investment in free education at every level.
The working class needs to take the economy and political power into its own hands in order to provide decent education, public services and standards of living for all – a society in which the full benefits of economic development can be enjoyed by all. Capitalism, by its very nature, cannot provide this; it is only a socialist transformation of society that holds a brighter future for our people
Joblessness in Zambia is an extremely serious problem.
One of the main reasons for our very high rates of poverty – 82.2 per cent in Western Province, Luapula Province 81.1 per cent, Northern Province 79.7 per cent, Eastern Province 70 per cent, Muchinga Province 69.3 per cent, North Western Province 66.4 per cent, Southern Province 57.6 per cent, Central Province 56.2 per cent, Copperbelt Province 30.8 per cent and Lusaka Province 29.2 per cent – is the failure of the economy to provide sufficient jobs.
In order to derive a benefit from an economy, people must be able to participate in it; and for most people, the primary means of economic participation is through work.
Unemployment undermines human dignity. It is a terrible frustration and humiliation for a parent to be unable, due to unemployment, provide for the family.
It is equally demoralising for young people to find there’s no work waiting for them when they leave school, college or university.
There is an old joke that the only thing worse than being exploited by capitalism is not being exploited by capitalism.
Things are not easy for the great majority of our people, especially the workers and the peasants. But we cannot abandon our moral responsibilities, even when it is difficult to fulfil them.
Much more needs to be said and to be done if we are to meet effectively the massive problems of human suffering in Zambia today. We all know our people’s suffering. But there seems to be very little action taking place in responding to the suffering of our people.
Unemployment is not an inevitable and necessary part of human life. Unemployment is ultimately a product of human decisions and can be eradicated by human decisions.
When we speak of the economy or an economic system, we are speaking of policies and plans which control the wealth and resources of a country, about how resources are distributed between people, and about how the means of production – such as land, factories and technology – are owned and controlled.
At the heart of every economic system lies human needs, human abilities and human decisions, and it is the choices which we make in addressing those needs, sharing those abilities, and making those decisions, that determine justice or injustice of economic system. The more powerful our economic position, the greater our freedom of choice, with the working class, the peasants and the poor in general having very little effective choice in their economic decision making. There is thus a moral quality about an economy, a quality which has its roots in the morally correct or incorrect choices by people. And it is the moral quality of the economy that enables us to make judgments about whether or not it is a just economy.
Karl Marx believed that capitalism needed unemployment: the very workings of capitalist production for profit created unemployment, even in the best of economic times.
Marx argued that capitalists are always in competition with one another to create larger profits – by lowering their costs, largely by increasing labour productivity. A key way to do this is to replace variable capital – living labour – with fixed capital, machines.
And because the purpose of capitalist production is to maximise profit, whenever new technology is introduced it usually means a reduction in jobs – the capitalist can make as much, or more, than before, with fewer workers.
“It is the absolute interest of every capitalist to press a given quantity of labour out of a smaller, rather than a greater number of labourers, if the cost is about the same,” Marx wrote.
As productivity increases, capitalists can use fewer workers to produce more, with surplus workers being retrenched.
However, Marx argued, capitalist production is not just a one-way street. While new technology can displace workers from one industry, new industries are continually being developed. Workers are continually being re-employed and then set free. Although it may rise or fall, unemployment itself is a permanent feature of capitalism.
The unemployed are more than just a permanent reserve army of labour on which capital may call, however. They also serve capital by placing a permanent pressure on the wages of those who are employed, encouraging them to work harder for less, at pain of losing their job to someone else.
“Taking them as a whole, the general movements of wages are exclusively regulated by the expansion and contraction of the industrial reserve army, and these again correspond to the periodic changes of the industrial cycle,” wrote Marx.
Capitalism has unleashed the massive productive potential of humanity. It has socialised production, unlocking the possibility of a better world — one based on the power of society-wide organisation and cooperation. Such immense productive power — if placed under the control of workers — could solve the world’s crises. Hunger and unemployment could all be things of the past, but not while production remains geared to profit alone and not to satisfy needs.
Marx believed that working people had both the right and the ability to run society better. In order to do so, however, first they had to take political power from the capitalists and use it to reorganise production in a socially useful way.
We are having such very large numbers of unemployed people became capitalism both creates and needs unemployment.
Capitalists’ investments can be divided into two parts: the part that hires workers, and the part that buys or rents the means of production – machines, raw materials, factories. As capitalism grows, two processes reduce the part of capital that hires workers. Competition leads to concentration: the big fish eat the little fish, or two medium or large companies merge to become a bigger fish. The merged company enjoys greater economies of scale, which basically means that one worker can operate a larger amount of the company’s capital. And whenever there is a merger of two firms, one guaranteed result is retrenchments.
The other process is the capitalists’ drive to increase productivity, which is imposed by competition. Greater productivity means producing a larger number of products from a smaller investment. One way to do this is to drive down wages and drive up working hours. The other way of increasing productivity is to provide workers with more efficient machines or tools. But if workers switch to using more efficient machines, then of course fewer workers are required to produce any given number of products. In a capitalist system, labour-saving technology necessarily destroys the jobs of some workers. This doesn’t mean that the number of jobs falls continuously. Particular industries can find new markets and expand; new industries can be created that need workers; the demand for labour rises and falls with changes in the business cycle. But it does mean that capitalism has an inbuilt tendency to drive workers out of production.
And that is precisely the condition that capitalism needs. Capitalists need a pool of workers who can be drafted into and thrown out of production according to the capitalists’ changing requirements. When the economy is improving, they need workers immediately: hire some of the unemployed. When business turns down, save money – retrench them. You can always get more when things pick up.
Whatever the situation of the economy, the pool of unemployed helps keep workers’ wages and other demands down.
Capitalist economists talk about the supply and demand of labour. Marx pointed out: “The industrial reserve army, during the periods of stagnation and average prosperity, weighs down the active labour army; during the periods of over-production and paroxysm, it holds its pretensions in check. [The industrial reserve army] is therefore the pivot upon which the law of demand and supply of labour works. It confines … this law within the limits absolutely convenient to … exploitation and to the domination of capital.”
Even before the Chilanga elections were held, it was apparent that innocent people were going to be attacked, harassed, abused and their civil liberties infringed upon. The expected violence truly materialised. Journalists were brutally attacked and threatened with death. Ordinary citizens were brutalised.
In this aftermath, Zambians are traumatised by the senseless violence emanating especially from the PF. The other petty bourgeois political parties do not want to be left behind. Rhetoric and counter-accusations aside, they are all violent. It is the same people, applying similar methods and the lives of ordinary Zambians have become mere collateral damage.
The escalation of political violence is an entry point towards a state of war. Full-scale war does not start abruptly. It is cumulative. It is a process. It is the failure of reason under a corrupt, undemocratic system that creates the objective conditions for war. In Zambia today, a bunch of petty bourgeois politicians are holding the masses hostage. Their rivalries have nothing to do with humanity, equity and solidarity. They are fighting for the spoils of the capitalist system that keeps our homeland subjugated and highly exploited by international capital. They are fighting for the control of public resources so as to sustain their parasitic existence. For this greedy intention, they are ready to kill.
The violence we experienced in 2016 was a mere dress rehearsal. The 2021 elections will be worse. Many lives will be lost. Any political party able to marshal and execute more acts of violence and intimidated the voters will emerge victorious. This is archaic and a reverse of the normal. The normal condition is that people will turn and vote against acts of violence. However, President Edgar Lungu and his cohorts have effectively applied violence and secured many victories. Violence has now been institutionalised in the electoral process. The average Zambian does not want to be at the receiving end. It is apparent that ordinary people are being intimidated and their resolve to withstand systemic violence is weakened.
For the opposition political parties, appeals to the police and Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) get drowned under their own acts of violence and loud celebratory moods of the victors. The police have become an extended arm of the PF – to the dismay of many officers still hoping to see some professionalism in the service. The opposition political parties will definitely prepare adequately for what is to come. Blows, knives, machetes and even guns will be part of the arsenal punctuated by verbal obscenities A state of war is much closer than we imagine. Many countries that ended up in full-scale war often ignored these obvious signs. We are not behaving differently.
The Socialist Party stands for Justice, Equity and Peace. These are the three pillars of our programme. Peace is a pre-requisite for any meaningful socio-economic developmental. All political parties should ordinarily prioritise it. However, what we see is the complete opposite. The political parties talk peace but behave violently. They do not believe in peace. All talk about peace is a façade meant to blind Zambians. Without violence, they have nothing much to offer. The violence starts with their threatening language; the never ending lies; treachery; physical acts of violence and ends up with counter-accusations plus denial.
In any rational situation, we would have demanded for 1) the nullification of the Chilanga election results; 2) The setting up of a bipartisan commission on political violence that would come up with concrete recommendations for implementation before any other election is held; 3) The resignation of the police command; 4) immediate resignation of President Edgar Lungu and his Minister of Home Affairs. In todays Zambia, however, such demands become naïve and subject to laughter. The moral decay is deep rooted. Nothing short of a revolution will be required to bring back sanity and stop this senseless violence.
By Fred M’membe
We are back again to the issue of unemployment – jobs, jobs, jobs!
Socialists are for scientific and technological advances; they are not against high-tech and machines. That would be pushing humanity back to the stone age and not progressive!
Socialists are fully in support of developing advanced technologies: replacing labor with machinery; producing more wealth for society with less work; and reducing the hours of the working day.
In the science fiction of the past writers imagined a future utopia in which the biggest problem facing humanity would be what to do with all our leisure time whilst machines did all the work! Such a society has been made entirely possible by capitalism, which played a most revolutionary and progressive role in the past in terms of its development of the productive forces. But now capitalism is unable to use these productive forces and has become an absolute fetter on further progress. Rather than realizing the dream of a life of leisure for all, millions are consigned to forced idleness by a system that has serious problems creating jobs, whilst millions of others work round the clock in order to feed themselves and their families. What’s more, those increases in living standards that have been seen under capitalism – of better incomes and increased leisure time – have not been benevolently or graciously granted by the capitalists, but have been struggled for by the workers. The welfare state and the minimum wage; the weekend and the eight-hour working day; healthcare and education: all of these were fought for by the working class, and are now under attack from the capitalists due to the crisis of their system.
The potential for a society of superabundance is more real now than ever. One only has to look at the official economic statistics of the capitalists to see what would be possible with a socialist plan of production.
It’s real or a fact that in Zambia today machines have taken up our people’s jobs in the mines, on commercial farms, construction sites, the banks and so on and so forth. But our people need jobs to survive! Where are the jobs going to come from for the so many young people leaving school, college and university and indeed those who are being retrenched? We have to answer this question and solve the issue of jobs. We can’t get tired of talking about ‘Jobs, Jobs, Jobs’ until the solution is found. How else can our people survive without jobs?
One of the main reasons for our high rates of poverty is the failure of the economy to provide sufficient jobs.
In order to derive benefit from an economy, people must be able to participate in it; and for most people, the primary means of economic participation is through work.
Where there is high unemployment we have an indication of an unjust economy.
And it’s not only we socialists who are worried about this problem. Now even the serious capitalists are worried; not only because of the social turmoil caused by this inequality and unemployment, which increasingly threatens their own privileged position within this system, but also because of evidence of a longer term inability for this same system to provide growth, jobs, and a decent standard of living – that is, to develop the productive forces. Every winter they go to Davos in Switzerland for the World Economic Forum to discuss, mainly, the ceaselessly growing inequality and unemployment in the world. The main cause of this growing inequality and unemployment is not because the world is today less capitalist or is producing less goods and services. How more capitalist does one want the United States, Europe and indeed the whole world to be? For last 27 years Zambia has been on an unbridled neoliberal capitalist path – privatizing and commercializing everything, including land, but the net result is what we see: unceaselessly growing inequality and unemployment!
This worry, fear exists among capitalists as well: the worry, fear that rapid technological progress in the modern age could potentially lead to mass unemployment, with machines replacing workers in a vast range of jobs in terms of both manual and mental labor, particularly with the advent of advanced computing techniques, such as machine learning and voice recognition. As The Economist (May 25, 2013) commented: “There is a good chance that technology may destroy more jobs than it creates. There is an even greater chance that it will continue to widen inequalities. Technology is creating ever more markets in which innovators, investors and consumers – not workers – get the lion’s share of the gains.”
Again, we socialists are not the only ones worried about this phenomenon, the capitalists are also increasingly expressing bewilderment.
This worry has been expressed within recent books such as “Race Against the Machine” by two academics from MIT’s Sloan Business School. The authors, Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee state: “It may seem paradoxical that faster progress can hurt wages and jobs for millions of people, but we argue that is what has been happening…How can so much value creation and so much economic misfortune coexist? How can technologies accelerate while incomes stagnate?”
Clearly, high-tech and increase in productivity that accompany it, rather than improving living standards, have actually lowered them for the vast majority, creating stagnant wages and permanent structural unemployment. As Brynjolfsson and McAfee point out: “There have been trillions of dollars of wealth created in recent decades, but most of it went to a relatively small share of the population… over 100 per cent of all the wealth increase in America between 1983 and 2009 accrued to the top 20 per cent of households. The other four-fifths of the population saw a net decrease in wealth over nearly 30 years…There has been no stagnation in technological progress or aggregate wealth creation as is sometimes claimed. Instead, the stagnation of median incomes primarily reflects a fundamental change in how the economy apportions income and wealth. The median worker is losing the race against the machine.”
All of these are a clear symptom of the current crisis and the inability of capitalism to provide a future for the vast majority of workers and youth across the world.
The main cause of this crisis is production for profits and not for the satisfaction of human needs. Scientific and technological advances don’t necessarily need to lead to job losses. They can actually lead to more jobs and less working hours for workers – giving them more time for study, physical and spiritual development and to be more and more with their families.
Karl Marx long ago explained how the laws of capitalism – the anarchic competition between capitalists for greater profits – force each capitalist to try and reduce their costs, in order to sell at a lower price, by increasing productivity through the replacement of labor with machinery. This in turn, creates an “artificial surplus population” of the unemployed: “The fall in prices and the competitive struggle, on the other hand, impel each capitalist to reduce the individual value of his total product below its general value by employing new machinery, new and improved methods of labor and new forms of combination. That is, they impel him to raise the productivity of a given quantity of labor, to reduce the proportion of variable capital [wages] to constant [machinery, tools, equipment, raw materials, etc.] and thereby to dismiss workers, in short to create an artificial surplus population…The same causes that have raised the productivity of labor, increase the mass of commodity products, extended markets, accelerated the accumulation of capital, in terms of both mass and value, and lowered the rate of profit, these same causes have produced, and continue constantly to produce, a relative surplus population, a surplus population of workers who are not employed by this excess capital on account of the low level of exploitation of labor at which they would have to be employed, or at least on account of the low rate of profit they would yield at the given rate exploitation” (Capital, Vol. 3, Chapter 15, p363-364).
And again: “It is capitalist accumulation itself that constantly produces, and produces indeed in direct relation with its own energy and extent a relatively redundant working population, that is, a population which is superfluous to capital’s average requirements for its own valorization, and is therefore a surplus population” (Capital, Vol. 1, Chapter 25, p782).
It is, therefore, not technology itself, but the use of technology under capitalism, implemented in an anarchic and unplanned and greedy way, which leads to mass unemployment, and which in turn places pressure on those still in work to accept lower wages, as competition for the remaining jobs increases.
Alongside the creation of an “artificial surplus population”, therefore, there exists also a super-exploitation of those remaining in work, again in the name of increasing profits for the capitalists. Thus arises the contradiction in which mass unemployment can sit side-by-side with millions who must work 50-60 hours per week or take multiple jobs just in order to scrape by: “The over-work of the employed part of the working class swells the ranks of its reserve, while, conversely the greater pressure that the reserve by its competition exerts on the employed workers forces them to submit to over-work and subjects them to the dictates of capital. The condemnation of one part of the working class to enforced idleness by the over-work of the other part, and vice versa, becomes a means of enriching the individual capitalists, and accelerates at the same time the production of the industrial reserve army on a scale corresponding with the progress of social accumulation” (ibid, p789-790).
The existence of such a contradiction emphasizes the fact that such a surplus population is entirely “artificial”. Those who are unemployed are not “surplus” to the needs of society, but merely “surplus” to the needs of capital. Capitalism is unable to use the human resources available, and instead consigns millions to forced idleness. Big business refuses to invest and factories, shops, and offices lie empty, all because of the already existing excess capacity – that is, overproduction. The productive forces outgrow the “effective demand” of the market; commodities cannot be sold at a profit, or even sold at all; the economy grinds to a halt, not for any lack of “needs” in society, but simply because there is no profit to be made for the capitalists.
In addition, capitalism cannot even use the knowledge and technology that society has discovered and invented over millennia of history: innovation is not realized in any practical application because of the private ownership over ideas themselves, whilst new technologies are not introduced for fear of the further excess capacity, unemployment, and fall in demand that they would generate.
Under capitalism, the individual capitalist introduces technology and improves productivity in order to increase their own individual profit, without any regard for the living standards of workers or the needs of society.
Hence the fear of capitalists, such as the authors of “Race Against the Machine”, that it is technology that is responsible for unemployment and inequality.
Capitalism cannot solve this without ending itself. Actually, for capitalism this will be like trying to square a circle.
Under socialism, the anarchy of competition and the market would be replaced by a rational plan of production, allowing technology to be introduced, and productivity to be raised. The human being and the machine could co-exist in harmony rather than in competition. Rather than generating the contradiction of unemployment alongside extreme toil, work could be shared out equally and the hours of the working day could be reduced for all, with further investment and improvement leading to an ever increasing amount of leisure time.
We see, once again, that it is not technology that is the source of social ills, but the capitalist system itself, and the enormous barrier to progress that this system imposes due to private ownership and production for profit and not for the satisfaction of human needs.