Dick's Vlog


Comes the Revolution - By Richard Nielsen


Behind the Wall Street occupiers, the Quebec Students Strike and conceivably, even the Arab Spring, lies a massive deception which has so far gone unacknowledged – perhaps because so many of us are complicit.

The pre-20th Century world economy was only partly capitalized – a term used to describe an economy that relies far less on large concentrations of capital than does ours. The huge industries of those times auto, steel, mining and transport required capital in large amounts but the capital needs of agriculture, merchandising and all sorts of small manufacturing and services was supplied by a variety of devices appropriate to each, and the same was true of fishing, construction, most retailing, and a wide variety of crafts requiring a skilled workforce.

Now the corporate world has arrived and nothing escapes its participation, surveillance or influence.

Our acceptance of these changes had a sense of inevitability. There was no serious challenge to the revelation that workers would no longer be trained by the industry or organization that employed them. Governments quickly fell in line agreeing with the corporate sector that the government’s task was to foster high tech industries – a “knowledge economy.”

There was only one drawback. That economy did not yet exist. So how would people be trained for non-existent jobs and who would pay? It turns out that where there’s a will, there’s a way.

In New Brunswick seventy years ago, 20% of young boys left school after grade four to enter into intensive training for what would become their life’s work on farms they would inherit.

Another 60% left school after grade eight because they were going into the mill or into the bush. They would be trained at their employers’ expense and assured a job when that training was complete.

The 20% who finished high school would mainly fill “office,” i.e. clerical, jobs, but some would go to work at the bank and be fully trained for the top jobs without benefit of any further higher education. Most of the office jobs would be filled by women, many of whom would go to normal school, heavily subsidized, to become teachers. Others were trained as nurses, paid while they learned with a guaranteed job after that.

Fewer than 6% would go to university for professional training as lawyers, doctors, ministers, priests, engineers, professors and scientists. Now a comparable figure is 54%.

In the 1970s high schools still taught “trades” and most people were trained on the job.

But no one seemed to have anticipated where all this was headed.

Most economic activity was about to be “capitalized” or “corporatized,” requiring large concentrations of capital, directed by relatively few people.

In the short space of fifteen years, most of the unionized jobs in North American industry would be transported overseas under the cover of “globalization” – free trade. Globalization not only undercut union agreements, it effectively eliminated government responsibility for a nation’s economic performance. Government became a facilitator, accommodating the needs of the global economy. Corporate taxes, like workers’ wages, now joined the race to the bottom.

In agriculture globalism would eliminate the family farm. Huge agricultural corporations, often growing heavily subsidized crops, bought up or rented land, replacing the farmers with immigrants (often illegal) enjoying no rights whatsoever.

Inevitably globalized industry dispensed with the cost of training workers, both in agriculture and in industry. Why prepare them for jobs that would go to others?

But none of these changes addressed the central problem – the economy for which workers were to be trained did not exist. It followed that there was no one to bear the cost of training other than the students seeking to prepare themselves for their own future. How would they pay? The system had an answer for that. The banks would supply loans guaranteed by the government or the government would supply loans with money from the bank.

Suppose a student takes a four year course that costs $28,000. If the student pays back that loan over a ten year period, the student will have spent $42,000 for his or her training and the bank will have pocketed $14,000 of that for simply making the loan available – a loan guaranteed by the government.

All of the changes mentioned above reduce the money going to employees and to prospective employees and increase the amounts going to corporations and to those who own corporations.

The anger in the streets is not simply or even primarily about fees, nor is it about greed, it is about the failure of the new corporate capitalist society to deliver on its promise of high tech jobs as a substitute for the jobs they wilfully gave away. And most of us should be willing to admit that we should have seen it coming.

It is impossible to train and prepare people for jobs that don’t yet exist or to persuade the companies that may or may not create those jobs, to pay for such training. Thus a whole generation of young people was persuaded to speculate as to whether jobs would be created, and were supplied the money to give that speculation substance by the banks, which were guaranteed against any losses while those students who accepted the offer faced impoverishment if the jobs failed to appear.

Nothing precisely like this has ever happened before, but there are striking similarities with the false prosperity of the French upper-class in the years leading up to the French Revolution, when cheap sugar and spices from Central America produced by slaves, made those who controlled that trade fabulously, obscenely, wealthy.

The guillotine was the answer.

In similar fashion the Russian Revolution began not in the streets, but with the children of the well to do whose wealthy parents had been persuaded that their children should be educated to European standards and when that was done the children looked at Russian society with new eyes and demanded immediate, fundamental change.

The poor – the people Marx referred to as the Proletariat – do not create revolutions. They are too used to poverty and injustice to respond militantly when things get worse. In both France and Russia the poor inherited the revolution, ending, sometimes brutally, what the middle class began.

The other consistent feature of all revolutions is that they occur when the ruling class has created expectations they cannot fulfill, expectations that are beyond the power of anyone to fulfill. Revolutions are not about the future, they are about vengeance for crimes already committed. The only thing they promise is change.

We have devised a system in which young people pay for their own training for non-existent jobs to the financial benefit of the banks and universities, with the government agreeing to pick up the tab if the students can’t pay, leaving the students on the hook for the rest of their lives.

Hardly seem fair, does it?

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Posted by Dick