Steel Workers Victimized by Capitalist Overproduction, Not Simply Trump’s Failed Protectionism


The facility at which approximately 200 workers were laid off.

Last fall, U.S. Steelworkers saw victory in their fight for better pay and conditions. In recent weeks, U.S. Steelworkers have faced several destructive blows, leading to the announcement by U.S. Steel that they would layoff about 200 workers.

The reason for these lay-offs are the reasons for the constant misery of working people in the United States and around the globe: the capitalist’s profit, and inter-capitalist bickering.

Citing low-prices and softening demand, the owners of U.S. Steel will be shutting down two blast furnaces at their Great Lakes Factory. At the moment the company is calling these, “temporary layoffs” that could last six months.

Liberal talking heads have used the layoffs as an occasion to attack Trump’s undeniably outdated protectionist policies, but this sort of rhetoric ignores both the general crisis of capitalism that endures across party affiliation, that of overproduction, and the victims of that crisis—the american working class.

The steel industry was meant to be one of the industries injected with new profits with new tariffs on foreign imports. On March 1, 2018, President Trump placed tariffs on the importing of foreign steel. Initially, this did bring about a rise in profits. But these profits created the conditions of their eventual, sharp decline.

Just as with all industries, production is not based on need or even demand, but speculation. The jump in profits was due to a buy-off prompted by the placement of the tariffs. The buy-off caused a rise in the price of US Steel’s stock. Like any company, in order to profit from this increase in capital, this capital must be placed into circulation, or reinvested into the growth and expansion of production. In doing this, the company increases production—the output of commodities to be sold on the market. In doing so the capitalists maintain investor confidence by showing continued growth and expansion.

The problem is that there is more capital being produced than can be profitably absorbed into the market. But much has already been produced. As is the norm under capitalism, supply precedes demand. This means when demand goes down, capital falls out of circulation putting dead capital on the books, steel which is not being sold, which loses investor confidence, causing them to pull out of the company, bringing the company’s stock price down.

And who pays the price of this speculative production? The investors? The Shareholders? The Board? No. It is the workers who pay.

When the company overproduces in order to make a short term profit and then prices fall 73%, investors pull out to safeguard their money, and the company lays off workers. This is the norm under capitalism and has been since the earliest days of capitalism in Europe. The workers who did nothing but their jobs are punished for the short-term greed of owners. A job well done has cost nearly 200 people with families, ambitions, and debts their livelihood in an instant. In doing their work they were exploited at a rate of over 91.2% and now have lost their jobs altogether. The only reason? To maintain profit margins. This is not a condition particular to the Trump Administration’s tariffs or any one policy of any one state. This is a condition of the market system, seen all around the world, in every industry, in every national economy, in the global economy, since capitalism first came to be the dominant system.

This recent mass firing at U.S. Steel only exemplifies that the capitalist system can only function at the expense of the working class and the need of the working class to rid itself of the capitalist parasite, to produce for itself rationally, and not the irrational chaotic market system which produces on speculation for the profit of the few on the exploitation and livelihood of the many.

Categories: U.S. News

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