Violent Extremists in the US Kill 150 People Every Day! For Capitalists, Workers’ Lives Don’t Matter
First appeared in Skewed News.
Every year, domestic terrorists of various reactionary ideological stripes kill an average of about five people. Cops kill many more than that: at the rate they’re going, 1,100 people will die at their hands this year alone.
But there is another group of despicable and ruthless killers in the United States that no one ever talks about: capitalists. 4,585 people every year are killed on the job, and an additional 50,000 people are killed slightly more slowly from occupational diseases. That’s 150 people EVERY DAMN DAY.
In addition, capitalists subjected nearly 3.8 million workers to injuries and illnesses. Those are just the reported cases; unreported ones could be as high as 11.4 million per year.
Largely because of fracking, North Dakota is currently the deadliest place to work. Its death rate, 14.9 per 100,000 workers, has more than doubled since 2007. Wyoming (9.5) and West Virginia (8.6) took second and third place. Texas has highest total number of workers killed on the job: 493 in 2013. The deadliest occupations there are construction and land transport.
Some might think I’m going too far by blaming capitalists and accusing them of killing workers on purpose. After all, business owners and investors aren’t marching onto jobsites and gunning people down; these are considered accidents.
But is it an accident that on freight trains, some carrying highly flammable crude oil, crews are being cut from two people to one? Is it an accident when construction sites have unprotected sides and edges or when guardrails are left off scaffolding platforms? Is it an accident when we breathe in toxic chemicals that we don’t even know we’re being exposed to? Is it an accident when farm workers are transported without seat belts?
Let’s examine intent. Why would capitalists skimp on safety measures? It isn’t for some mysterious, uncontrollable law of nature: it’s simply because they want to make more money. They have no more and no less of a reason than this. This motive doesn’t even have the veneer of justification of “self-defense” or “God told me to.” It’s raw selfishness, a cold calculation that decides that a few bottles of Dom Perignon and 1,200 thread count monogrammed sheets are more important than the lives of workers. This is a purposeful decision, a choice, an obsession with the bottom line that is no less than sociopathic. Let’s call this belief—that it’s ok to kill workers for higher profits—out for what it is: an extremist ideology.
For capitalists everywhere, workers are disposable. A truck driver in Ontario recently said his boss refused to spend $400 on decent headlights so he could see at night, and summed up the situation perfectly: “Basically what I’m saying is nobody gives a fucking shit for you and anything about you.”
The world grieved for the 1,129 garment workers killed in Bangladesh in 2013, when Rana Plaza collapsed, the worst industrial death toll in history. The building owner denied the building was unsafe in spite of obviously spreading cracks in the walls, and factory managers threatened to withhold a month’s pay from workers if they didn’t enter.
Faiezul Hakim, President of the Bangladesh Trade Union Federation told me: “We did not consider that the collapse at Rana Plaza was an accident. We stated that it is a mass killing of the workers. It was not an accident. Because the building, it was already declared that it was not usable.”
In other words, those workers were deliberately coerced into a crumbling building because capitalists were unwilling to lose even one second of squeezing profits out of them.
All over the world, we cried as we witnessed the bodies pulled from the rubble. We protested the breathtaking cruelty of a businessman willing to put human beings at risk so he could enrich his own sorry ass.
And indeed, due to public outcry, the building owner Sohel Rana and 40 other perpetrators have finally, more than two years after the crime, been charged with murder.
When four times that number of workers are killed here in the US every year, right in front of our face, why don’t we say anything? Why don’t we do anything? Why do we not charge them with murder?
These workers are our families, our friends, they are us. Capitalists put their wealth over the lives of those who produce that very wealth that they enjoy. We need to start defending ourselves and each other from these cold-blooded, greedy killers. We need to organize autonomously, in our interests, and build our collective strength. Only through constructing working class unity will we become a force powerful enough to make the killing stop.