‘Today is Cuban workers’ day!’ a Cuban friend told me in late June, beaming at the news that all employees of the island’s ‘budgeted’ state sector would receive significant salary rises, commencing from 1 July 2019. Cuba’s budgeted sector incorporates organisations and entities which operate with a state budget and mostly provide services free to the population without returning revenue to the state. This includes public health , education, culture and sport, public administration, community services, housing and defence.
You are here
Labor / Economics
Stories about Labor and Economics.
Earlier this month, Pacific Gas & Electric, the investor-owned utility company that supplies power to much of California, cut off electricity to over 700,000 customers. The company argued that such a drastic measure — the largest planned power outage in the state’s history — was necessary to prevent wildfires.
Yet for some activists, this bleakly framed choice served as another reminder that investor-owned utility companies are not positioned to manage our energy futures, especially as climate change raises the stakes.
Conceding that their grip on the economy is slipping, central bankers are proposing a radical economic reset that would shift yet more power from government to themselves.
Most scientists, politicians, and business leaders tend to put their hope in technological progress. Regardless of ideology, there is a widespread expectation that new technologies will replace fossil fuels by harnessing renewable energy such as solar and wind. Many also trust that there will be technologies for removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and for “geoengineering” the Earth’s climate. The common denominator in these visions is the faith that we can save modern civilisation if we shift to new technologies. But “technology” is not a magic wand. It requires a lot of money, which means claims on labour and resources from other areas. We tend to forget this crucial fact.
When the Federal Reserve cut interest rates on July 31stfor the first time in more than a decade, commentators were asking why. According to official data, the economy was rebounding, unemployment was below 4%, and GDP growth was above 3%. If anything, by the Fed’s own reasoning, it should have been raising rates.
Failing to understand the systemic character of capitalism and its relation to climate change also leads to the two technologies of change McKibben advocates: the entrepreneurial potential of solar power to remake capitalism’s energy system, and the politics of nonviolent protest, not as a way to take power from rulers but as a way to change their minds.
Falter leads us toward hoped-for green, capitalist solutions. Highlighting that this is “good business,” McKibben forefronts the work of a Harvard graduate and entrepreneur trying to sell investors on small scale solar (with marginal profit margins) in rural Africa: “I’m not a socialist . . . I don’t think humans are wired that way. But I also think extractive capitalism has run its course.” Solar panels produce usable power directly from the sun, and the technology is getting cheaper and more widely available, and, in the market, can out-compete fossil fuel produced electricity.
The left that’s emerged since 2008 is, in reality, an alliance of two projects: a rearguard action by the old working class of the carbon era, against austerity, atomisation and a falling wage share; and an offensive by the diverse, educated workforce of the information era to advance individual rights and social liberalisation. One project is about setting right the injustices of the carbon era; the other is about moving beyond both work and carbon.
That is why all current Green New Deal proposals contain a promise to the existing industrial workforce that, whatever the scale of change, there will be enough decent high-paid jobs created. The same assurance underpins the US Democrat proposal to replace diesel and petrol cars with electric vehicles.
Within hours of Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó calling for street mobilisations to back his attempted military coup against President Nicolás Maduro on April 30, Guaidó’s supporters had looted and set fire to the headquarters of the Indio Caricuao Commune in south-west Caracas.
The building was used for local residents’ meetings and housed a commune-run textile enterprise, which funds projects in the community.
Atenea Jiménez, from the National Network of Comuneros (commune activists) said: “Once again attacks on the communes by fascist sectors have begun.”
Payments can happen cheaply and easily without banks or credit card companies. This has now been demonstrated – not in the United States but in China. Unlike in the US, where numerous firms feast on fees from handling and processing payments, in China most money flows through mobile phones nearly for free. In 2018 these cashless payments totaleda whopping $41.5 trillion; and 90% were through Alipay and WeChat Pay, a pair of digital ecosystems that blend social media, commerce and banking.
The fact that the living standard of wage labourers has been delinked from GDP growth has an important implication: their well-being can be substantially increased under circumstances of a constant, or even shrinking GDP. We need not be concerned with maintaining or boosting GDP growth while discussing climate action. On the contrary, revealing and emphasizing the lack of connection between growth and well-being is more fruitful insofar as it demystifies the content of capitalist accumulation.