In December 2009 the unemployment rate reached 7.3% of the work force (or 169,000 people), the highest rate in sixteen years. 

In response to this record high unemployment rate the government is preparing to undertake the following actions:

  •  Forcing the unemployed to re-apply for their benefits every 12 months
  •  Tightening the eligibility criteria, and
  • Cracking down on people who are perceived to be “lazy” or not suitably fulfilling their job hunting requirements through the use of benefit cuts, and  
  • Effectively privatising the social welfare system by relegating the responsibility of paying benefits to iwi and other social agencies. 

Although the unemployment problem has been created through a combination of redunandcies in the public service and mass lay-offs in the construction, hospitality, and retail sectors the government has taken the approach of blaming the unemployed for their circumstances.  According to an interview that Prime Minister John Key gave on February 14th , 2010, he claimed that it was the attitudes of the unemployed that were largely to blame for their situation. 

Minister of Social Development, Paula Bennett, late last year published details of benefit payments paid to critics of the government’s policies to present the false impression that beneficiaries are being paid large amounts of money “for doing nothing”.   The fact the unemployment benefit for a single person is only $190.37 a week in the hand is totally ignored. 

This attack on the unemployed is a classic “divide and rule” tactic aimed at focussing the anger of the working class on a defenceless group in our society rather than the real criminals in our midst the ruling capitalist class.  
Every day the ruling classes steal from the working class through overcharging for goods and services, making record profits while paying wages that barely cover the basic costs of living, and charging fees and surcharges on whatever they can get away with, especially within the banks.

Despite the reality the rich are the ones who created the economic recession that was responsible for so many job losses they are being rewarded for their actions with proposed tax cuts while the victims of these job losses are being punished with a potential 2.5% hike in Goods and Services Tax in the budget, a paltry 25c per hour increase in the minimum wage and, for those who rent, major rent hikes due to changes in tax laws relating to depreciation.

It has been an accusation levelled against Marxists that we are out of touch with reality with our emphasis on class war.  The claim is often made that class war is no longer being waged because the working class now enjoy a standard of living and a degree of political and social freedoms that would’ve been unthinkable even one hundred years ago.  The ruling class claim that class war is dead because disputes are now mostly resolved peacefully behind closed doors between the bosses and workers’ representatives.   Such propaganda by the ruling class cannot be taken very seriously. It only takes a quick walk around the local community to see the collateral damage of that war: the job boards at Work and Income with ten jobs of which nine are part time jobs paying the minimum wage, the empty shops and closed down factories that now dominate many towns, and wages that are now inadequate to feed, let alone house, a family without relying on government assistance.

Workers need to be united more than ever before. It only requires humble acts, such as the establishment of a Marxist discussion group in your local community or encouraging your co-workers to join the union or  to become a union delegate, but these acts will create the foundation for the most powerful weapon we have against the capitalists: a united front of workers.