“We need to see pain in the economy,” said Australian multimillionaire Tim Gurner at a summit of plutocrats held last month in Sydney, Australia. Gurner argued that an increase in unemployment to “40 to 50 percent” is needed to make workers work harder. This is because Gurner believes that post-Covid “employees feel the employer is extremely lucky to have them, as opposed to the other way around.” In his outburst, Gurner blurted out what all other capitalists think, but are too discrete to say in public.
What Gurner says about increasing unemployment to discipline workers is perfectly rational from a capitalist perspective. Right now, when unemployment has been lower than at any time in the last 40 years, workers are beginning to push back against the pressures on the job. More and more, workers are also demanding big wage increases, partly in response to inflation. Alarmed by the prospects of workers turning more assertive, the Federal Reserve in the United States, like other central banks around the world, has been raising interest rates in an effort to slow the economy and increase unemployment. The pain this inflicts on workers is necessary to bring down inflation, or so say the world’s top bankers. Whether or not increased unemployment stops inflation, the capitalists and their politicians know that rising unemployment will impoverish some workers and discipline us all into shutting up and taking whatever job they’ll offer us. In this economy, our pain is their gain.
Outbursts like Gurner’s are a warning of what could happen if we don’t fight back against their tactics to keep the pressure on at work. Recent comments by South Carolina GOP Senator and presidential candidate Tim Scott are a warning of what some of the ruling class has in mind when we stand up to them.
An Iowa voter asked Scott about what he would do about the autoworkers’ strike. Scott replied, ” I think Ronald Reagan gave us a great example when federal employees decided they were going to strike. He said, ‘You strike, you’re fired.’ Simple concept to me. To the extent that we can use that once again, absolutely.”
Gurner had to retract his comments after some of his peers in Australia’s ruling class condemned them as provocative. And Scott may not today speak for more than a minority of the U.S. ruling class. But both of them have given us a glimpse of the tactics the capitalist class might use to suppress challenges to their profits and power.
Neither of them can imagine that workers have the capacity to defeat their scheming if we are organized and combative enough. Future generations will wonder why we let this lunatic, sadistic system go on for so long.