Originally printed in Issue 2 of the Occupied Dominion Post, publication by members of Occupy Wellington.
A recent (Unoccupied) Dominion Post opinion poll presented readers with the choices of supporting Occupy Wellington, or agreeing that “they need to get jobs.” Coupled with generally unsympathetic coverage from the capitalist press, this raised the hackles of some occupiers. At the Occupy Wellington Labour Day march, occupiers carried placard stating “I have a job and an occupation” or “I have two jobs, university and an occupation” – variations on the placard “I lost my job, found an occupation.”
The Occupy Together movement draws in supporters from diverse backgrounds, with a range of employment situations. Many of the core organisers have other commitments, including work and study. Those with full-time work and families may not have the time or energy for urban camping – so they support the movement by donating food or resources, by organising workshops, by coming to General Assemblies. This movement is a broad church.
More to the point, unemployment is a product of the system Occupy Together collectively challenges. Capitalism requires a reserve army of labour, a pool of unemployed workers to keep the labour market competitive. Under neoliberalism – the late stage of capitalism typified by cuts, privatisations and “free market” reform – structural unemployment is used to keep wages down.
The Alister Barry documentary In A Land of Plenty explores how during neoliberal reform, the Reserve Bank used interest rates as a way of keeping unemployment high – and wages low. Suzanne Snivelly, member of the Reserve Bank Board of Directors during the crucial reform period of 1985-1992 states:
“It was a manageable thing for the Reserve Bank to use employment, and unemployment, as the way to get wages down. It was far easier than any other means of getting inflation down. So they used it.”
By demonising occupiers as unemployed layabouts, the DomPost conveniently misses the point: whether or employed or unemployed, we have valid grievances. Capitalists attack the class as a whole – declining real wages, structural unemployment and benefit cuts are all part of the same package. We must counter these attacks with solidarity, unity and inclusiveness. From factory floors, to desks, to WINZ offices – we are the 99%.