For more than 100 years now, International Labour Day has been celebrated on the 1st of May for the majority of the countries of the world, Zambia included. For many decades now, millions of unemployed young Zambians have watched, on the side-lines, the Labour Day celebrations.

A horrible statistic which best captures the unemployment crisis in Zambia is reflected in the fact that for the advertised 11, 276 health workers posts, almost 140,000 applications have been received by government. This is shockingly 12 times more than the available posts.

Hakainde Hichilema has urged the private sector to do more to create employment in the country. It is this illusion that Zambia has a private sector capable of rising to the challenge of employing the millions of Zambians who need jobs, especially young Zambians, that we all need to pay attention to. In our circumstances, I want to argue, only the government has the capacity and ability to act as employer of the last resort precisely because our economy will never have a private sector capable of addressing the disastrous crisis levels of unemployment.

Zambia has a collapsed economic system in which to find work, someone with the use of your capacity to work must be willing to employ you. They are willing to employ you because at the end of the day they will make money from your labour, while paying you a small fraction of what you have worked for. Unless money can be made from your labour, you will be unemployed, for ever. A possible escape route from this trap is to try work for yourself.

It is extremely important to understand the mechanism by which “work” is created if we want to understand why millions of Zambians cannot find work. Without this knowledge, it is in fact impossible to solve the problem of mass unemployment such as we suffer from in Zambia. Let us try to think through the processes by which work is created.

When Hakainde says the private sector must solve the problem of unemployment in Zambia, he means that individuals who are in business to make money (capitalists) must create work. How do these people create work? A business person (a capitalist) starts and stays in business to make money, they aim to become rich. Businesses exist to make money first and foremost, not to create employment for the unemployed. A key consideration of every business person is to reduce the cost of doing business and maximise profits, by all means available, unfortunately, often including illegal ones.

Let us examine a business that makes things for sale. Such a business makes things called “commodities” which are both useful and can be exchanged for money, can be sold. “Commodities” are things made in a business by workers. These things are called “commodities” because they have two important qualities: they are useful and therefore they have a “use value” and they can be exchanged for money and therefore they have an “exchange value”.

Our economic system is based on “commodities” – making, importing, exporting, distributing, buying and selling “commodities” in order to become rich. No business can survive if it does not trade in use and exchange values, even if these are not physical commodities such as services. The reason is very simple, it is in the buying and selling – trading – in these “commodities” that business people recover the money they have spent buying inputs including human labour and make profits when they sell these commodities always at a price higher than the cost of producing these commodities.

In such a commodity system such as ours, “money” becomes the most important “commodity”! Making things in order to make money, so that a business can continue to make more money endlessly becomes the race every business is involved in. When a commodity is made, it must be sold if the business must continue to exist, and even grow.

When a business discovers or invents a way to create a commodity that sells, many individuals and other businesses quickly grab the idea and try to also make money by making the commodity. To continue to beat competition, a business must for ever be reducing costs, inventing new and cheaper ways of producing the commodity, and must always be trying to improve the quality and attractiveness of the commodity. Failure to do this quickly sees the business collapse, and disappear!

The frenzy to cut costs, make more and better products faster, sell them faster, find new markets, and continue in business has played a most powerful role in human civilisation, science and general advancement. All the things made by human beings which surround us are made in this frenzy to cut out competition and make more money – it is true that “capitalism” the system of chasing private profits by making commodities – has given us the car, the modern ship, railroads, modern trains, planes and massive airports, computers, the internet, massively huge farms producing food for millions of human beings at once, vast food processing and manufacturing factories that produce foods consumed all over the world and so on.

Science – all its branches – are tied to the frenzy for profits. Social science too – all its branches lubricate and build consensus to this insane frenzy for profits.

Sadly, there is a dark, ugly, sinister and extremely violent side to this system. Its origins lie in capturing other human beings, and making them properties of other human beings in order to produce commodities cheaply. Slavery was a system in which the labourer was wholly and completely owned by an owner, in the same way that one today may own a tractor on a farm. The division of the world today still reflects the history of slavery – with Africa at the bottom because millions of its people were slaughtered and others captured and traded as slaves to the US, Europe and Latin America. It is in fact the commodities made by slaves that laid the foundations of today’s world capitalist system.

A feature of slavery which survives in the system today is the turning of human beings into commodities. The slave was a commodity because it had both a use and exchange value. The person who can only survive by finding a capitalist willing to use their labour today is also a commodity – they have a use value, their labour, and an exchange value – the extra labour they give the capitalist in the process of producing non-human commodities.
When Hakainde calls upon the “private sector” – the collection of business people in Zambia (capitalists) – to create work he is actually asking these people and businesses to buy the labour of millions of unemployed Zambians and use it to make commodities for sell, to make profits. Our “private sector” however have many problems including lack of access to large sums of money needed to produce many things in large numbers, unemployment in Zambia drastically reduces demand in Zambia for many things made in Zambia, they cannot easily compete say with US, European, Japanese and Chinese businesses who have the services of advanced technologies and better access to money for business and have global networks which facilitate production, distribution and trading in what they produce.

Further, what today we call countries and their armies are a creation of the vicious competition to divide the world among the big capitalists of the world. Zambia, for example, like all so called African countries is a product of the ruthless and deadly competition among the rich European capitalists and countries who decided to share the entire continent among themselves.

Today we are living through a war in Europe between the US and its European allies and Russia. This war is part of the ongoing competition between the rich capitalists of the US, Western Europe and Russia, a war which will end with the war of all wars pitting the US and its global allies against China and its allies too! We are just a finger away from the Third World War, a nuclear war.

The competition among the business people in the world today has led to overheating the Earth leading to climate change, pollution of rivers, lakes and oceans and the destruction of the Earth’s vegetation and animals.

There are many other interesting things about the history of businesses, commodities, slavery, nations, armies, money, banks, climate change, and wars and the potential for the eventual destruction of the Earth, because of this competition to make commodities for private profits.

Zambia cannot grow a private sector capable of competing at the world stage without also simultaneously becoming a world military power and defeating, by violent means, other countries and other people. This is the dark side of capitalism – at its heart is the enslavement of other human beings, turning them into things for buying and selling for money!

The God of capitalism is money, not human employment. Zambia’s youth unemployment cannot be solved by capitalism which has created it. We must reject and fight capitalism. In such a fight, we are joined by all other human beings globally, who are reduced to commodities. Funny, isn’t it, the solution to our problems is staring us in the face: abolish commodifying things and commodifying human beings!

(Comments to: kalindawalo2010@gmail.com)