The demand for jobs – for the right to work – has always been fundamental for trade unionists, for socialists and for the whole working class movement.
The simple fact is that having a job is vital for lifting working people out of dire poverty, giving them a sense of self esteem, linking them to other workers and developing their potential to fight back.
Yet at the same it is clear that in Ireland today the slogan of ‘Jobs!’ is more and more being used by the political establishment for right wing, reactionary and anti-working class purposes.
The Apple scam is the latest example of this. “We cant expect Apple to pay any tax because this would threaten jobs.” But actually Enda Kenny and Fine Gael fought their election campaign partly on the jobs slogan and government ministers never stop saying their priority is jobs.
So this is an argument we need to grasp and be ready for.
In the case of Apple its fairly easy because it’s so obviously bogus. Apple employs only 6000 people in this country – that’s less than Paddy Power (7000) and less than half of either Tesco or Dunnes (14,000 each). Just €1 billion investment generates at least 10,000 decently paid sustainable jobs plus those jobs can be used to perform socially vital tasks like building social housing and improving the health service.
So the choice between Apple’s 6000 jobs and the huge number of jobs and vast social benefits that could be created with €13 billion is a no-brainer.
However, there’s more to it than this. The fact is that any corrupt, rotten, inhuman and unacceptable practice is likely to involve some people working in it and so can be, and will be, defended on the grounds of jobs.
A poison gas factory in the middle of Tallaght, a concentration camp in West Cork, an oil rig in the middle of Dublin Bay – they are all by definition ‘local jobs for local people’.
Apart from the oil rig in Dublin Bay, an actual proposal, these are imaginary examples to show the logic of the argument. But they are not that far fetched. In Britain the Tories and Blairites defended spending £135 billion on Trident – an instrument of unbelievable mass murder – with precisely the argument about jobs in the ‘defence’ industry.
So giving in to the jobs argument just leaves us open to blackmail that can be used to excuse every crime under the sun.
But why is it always jobs the establishment politicians go on about and not other things working class people need. They don’t say, ‘Wages! Wages! Wages!’ or ‘Houses! Houses! Houses!’.
The answer is that any job involves an employee/ worker but also an employer/ boss. It means wages for the worker but also, crucially, profits for the boss. It is precisely through employing workers and exploiting them by invariably paying them less than the value of the work they perform that bosses make profits in the first place.
So when Enda Kenny or Richard Bruton talk about creating jobs and present themselves as social benefactors they expect working class people to hear “wages” and be grateful but they also know that their business cronies will hear “profits” and also be grateful.
This is why they are so keen on the jobs slogan. It masks the conflict between classes and seems to please both sides at once.
But next time you hear the ‘jobs’ slogan, and it wont be long, remember these basic things: a) it’s not true multinational corporations ‘create jobs’, humans worked for thousands of years before such a thing as a corporation existed; b) what they have done is not create jobs but corner the market in them by controlling the wealth and the means of production; c) the only reason Apple or any of the rest of them employ people is to make a profit out of them and if it stops being profitable they lay them off without a backward glance. Remember Clerys and Vita Cortex!
But then it is precisely because Apple are making so much profit out of their operation in Ireland that they, along with Starbucks, Google, Facebook and the rest, are unlikely to quit even if they are forced to pay a bit of tax.