While wages were being driven down, economic efficiency (the amount of a product produced per hour of labour) continued to increase. This means that workers are producing more per hour of labour than ever before.
Capitalism is a system with inherent contradictions which inevitably lead to crises. Monthly Review editors John Bellamy Foster and Fred Magdoff explain in their book, The Great Financial Crisis: Causes and Consequences, that the contradictory forces of declining real wages alongside increasing efficiency in production has led to the current economic crisis. Workers have insufficient money to buy all of the products being made–this is a crisis of overproduction. With the reduced ability to sell goods, capital flooded to financial markets that were increasingly empty of real content. The crisis was repeatedly held back through the elimination of financial regulations and the encouragement of workers to take on increasingly more debt. But capitalism cannot put off its crises forever and in 2008 the financial bubble burst, causing the most severe economic crisis since the 1930s.
G-20 leaders are now trapped between two forces–their need to bail out capitalism, and the resistance from the workers who refuse to pay for capitalism’s crises. As Julian Benson recently wrote for the International Marxist Tendency, “Capitalism allows a limited form of democracy only when it can afford to do so. But when capitalism is forced by its own internal contradictions to mercilessly attack the lives of working-class people and their families, the bourgeoisie [the class that owns capital] will gladly abandon ‘freedom and democracy,’ to which they so often have given lip-service, in exchange for protecting their own bloated privileges”.
Julie Michaud of the NB Media Co-op explains her first-hand experience as a participant in the 25,000 person strong peaceful demonstrations at the G-20:
I was sure that the hundreds of police officers patrolling Toronto in the week leading up to the G-20 would have chased after a break-away group of black bloc protesters that rampaged down Yonge Street on Saturday afternoon. The black bloc broke windows and toppled mail boxes. They spray-painted ‘bomb the banks’ on walls. They set ablaze police cars that had been mysteriously abandoned in the middle of the street.
But the police didn’t seem to find this interesting. Instead, they busied themselves corralling peaceful protesters in a number of locations throughout the city.
It’s difficult to understand how this could have happened unless it was intentional. At one point I saw people on and in two police cars that had been abandoned (later to be set on fire) in the middle of the street. A crowd was milling about with signs and placards. It seemed implausible that the heavily armed police presence would not have been able to defend a couple of vehicles.
In the end, the summit arrest total reached 1105–the largest mass arrest in Canadian history. I managed to escape arrest, but some of my friends did not. They were held in cages for 22 hours, handcuffed and cold. They were denied access to legal counsel. One arrestee said he could see the thermostat from his cage set at 10 degrees Celcius. Minors were held in cages with 30 adults and many of those who were detained were not even protesters. Even media were swept up and assaulted in the arrests. Several women who were detained reported that police threatened them with rape.
Amnesty International, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and many other organizations are calling for an inquiry into the G-20 arrests. Regardless of the results of the inquiry, Harper has sent a clear message to all who would speak out against his government’s attempts to shift the burden of the economic crisis onto the working class: civil liberties be damned–dissent will not be tolerated.