Wednesday, April 28, 2010



Another Workers' Memorial Day has come and gone, and still the carnage continues. The death toll from workplace accidents worldwide is actually on the level of 6,000 per day or about 2.2 million per year. As such this particular "war against workers" is actually far more deadly than any actual war waged in recent memory, and it shows no sign of stopping. See this report from the International Labour Organization (ILO) for a full view of the grim statistics. The cause is simple. When humanity is divided into order givers (the bosses) and order takers (the workers) then those who direct the work do not put the highest priority on the interests of those they use in production. This applies to government enterprise just as much as it does to private business.

The solution is also just as simple...economic democracy where the conditions and goals of workplaces are controlled cooperatively by all who work in them. Some might argue that at least some workplace deaths and injuries are inevitable. Maybe so, but it hinges on what you mean by "some". Even in our pseudo-democratic societies the rate of such tragedies varies tremendously from country to country (and from region to region in federal states). In the EU, for instance, the number of fatalities per 100,000 workers varies from a low of 1.1 in the UK to a high of 7.6 in Portugal. This variation is not just a function of general economic development. Prosperous Austria has a higher rate (4.8) than Greece (3.0) or Spain (3.7). See here for the details. What these figures show is that the rate of such incidents is very much a function of the prevailing industrial culture in a given jurisdiction.
Deaths at the workplace and work related illnesses are not the inevitable result of simple chance. The differences in the figures above show that even with the minimal effort that business serving governments can put in that at least 85% of these deaths are preventable. What i am saying is that, if workers run the workplaces themselves that the percentage that can be prevented is an unknown number far greater than 85%.
This war on the workers is not one that can end with a peace treaty and not just because it is an undeclared war. The very nature of a society divided into those who work and those who direct means that the directors will inevitably cut corners when the welfare of the employees interferes with the goals of the bosses. This war can only end when workplaces are owned and run cooperatively. That is what is called libertarian socialism.

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